This is a fictional story dealing with love and consensual sexual activities
between males. If you are not of legal age, reside in an area where viewing
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The author retains all rights to this story. No reproductions or links to
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Note: I owe a special thanks to Robb for doing the final proofreading and
catching all those silly little errors that I missed.
If you like the story, I'd appreciate hearing from you. Send your
comments to Jeff Allen (email@example.com).
THUNDER IN THE NIGHT
by Jeff Allen
I let Luis drive us out to Santa Teresa. I was a nervous wreck worrying
about the horses and the barn, and since he was more secure with his driving
I felt more relaxed having him drive. As Luis headed the big SUV out of the
city toward Santa Teresa, I called James on my cell phone to let him know
why I wouldn't be in the office.
Luis was fascinated with all the accessories on the Tahoe like the CD player,
the compass, the outside temperature gauge, and the dual zone air conditioning
controls. He asked about the various buttons on the key fob. I explained the
functioning of each. He was amazed when I told him how to use a couple of
the buttons in combination to start the truck from the outside.
"You can really start the truck from inside the house?"
"Why would you want to do such a thing?"
"Oh, I've never done it. I guess you could start it on a really hot day and
let the air conditioner cool it down a little before you got in."
He grinned over at me and shook his head. "You gringos are so
lazy and soft."
It looked like every emergency vehicle in Santa Teresa County was out at
Rancho del Abuelo when we arrived. There were Sheriff's Patrol cars, fire
trucks, the rescue squad, the coroner, the crime lab. You name it; they were
The barn was a smoldering ruin. A couple of the firemen and some guys from
the crime lab were going through the ruins with rakes.
I spied Alton sitting in one of the porch chairs. Juanita was distributing
iced tea to the firemen and sheriff's deputies who weren't involved with searching
through the ruins of the barn. Blaze and Boots were pacing around in the
corral, clearly nervous with all the human activity in the area.
Alton rose when I got out of the passenger side of the Tahoe. He had some
bandages on his forehead and hands. His clothes were streaked with soot.
"Glad ya got here. Excitement's about over now."
"Well, I was jest comin'out to feed the horses this mornin'. Noticed the
smoke from the road and hightailed it up here. The barn was really goin' by
the time I got here. Got the two horses out then came in the house to call
the fire department."
"How'd you get those burns? Was that when you were getting the horses out?
Are they okay."
"Relax, Paul. The horses is fine. A mite nervous right now, but they're fine.
I got these burns tryin' to play fireman. I thought I could get at the fire
with the garden hose before the professionals got here. I got too close and
got burned. Juanita's already bawled me out fer that. Said I was an 'old
fool.' Told her that made her an old fool's wife. She may not talk to me
fer a couple a days, but it was worth it."
We heard the phone ring in the kitchen. Luis went in to answer it while Alton
and I stayed on the porch watching the men comb through the ruins of the
"What's this about a body?"
"Don't know much. Once the fire was out, the firemen started pokin' around
in the ruins. They spotted the body pretty quick. Coroner's men just put it
in the meat wagon before you an' Luis drove up. Looks like they's gonna have
to use dental records to identify the poor fella. He was roasted pretty bad.
"What was somebody doing out in the barn?"
"Don't know. The fire investigator thinks the fire was set. Maybe the guy
got caught before he could get away?"
"That doesn't make any sense. The fire couldn't have been going that long
because you were able to get the horses out."
"Yeah. That's right. It was just really starting to catch when I got here.
'Nother couple o' minutes and I wouldn't have been able to get to the horses.
Damn, that pisses me off. Who'd set fire to a place with animals inside?"
Luis came back out on the porch. "That was Señor Mac on the
telephone. He wanted to know if you and I were safe and if the horses were
safe. He will come here when he is done with his work today."
Alton and I spent the rest of the morning and much of the afternoon talking
with the arson investigators. Neither of us were much help. Alton did remember
seeing a couple of other cars and trucks on the road when he was driving out
to feed the horses, but nothing seemed too unusual.
I called my insurance agent in town. Santa Teresa is a small place, and he'd
already heard about the fire when I called. He asked me to get together a
list of everything that had been lost in the fire. Alton and I spent the rest
of the afternoon in front of the computer adding things to the list as we
were able to think of them.
It was almost five when we heard another vehicle coming up the driveway.
Alton, Juanita, Luis, and I moved toward the porch to greet the newcomer.
Mac's old F150 came into view pulling his horse trailer.
He pulled to a stop and stepped out of the truck. He was dressed in work
boots, jeans and a work shirt which was open at the neck exposing a tuft of
"If you need a place for the horses to stay, I've got room over at my place.
It's more of a lean to than a barn, but it'll give them some shelter from
the sun. You're welcome to keep them there until you get something built back
We'd been so busy answering questions and worrying about the insurance, we
hadn't given the first thought to finding a place to board the horses.
"Thanks, Mac. We hadn't gotten around to figuring out what to do with them
He came up and shook hands with Alton and me. He gave Juanita and Luis quick
"When I heard the news I thought you would be a little busy so I went back
home and hitched up the trailer. I figured it would save a trip if you took
me up on the offer."
We loaded Blaze and Boots into Mac's trailer. They were still a little nervous
from all of the excitement. Boots ended up stepping on Alton's ankle causing
him to swear and limp away from the trailer.
"If you young fellers don't mind, I've had enough excitement for one day.
Me an' Juanita is goin' back home. I'm gonna uncork a bottle and snort back
a few. It's been a helluva day."
We all climbed into our vehicles. Juanita wanted to their pickup. Alton insisted
he was okay to drive, but Juanita won out. Poor Alton was gripping the dashboard
as they swerved down the drive way. I had the feeling that he'd much rather
face another barn fire as Juanita's driving.
Luis and I followed Mac and the horses over to his place which was about
eight miles from mine. He turned off the secondary road and up a short drive
coming to a stop in front of an older mobile home. His corral was next to
the trailer. Sam tossed is head and whinnied from the gate as Mac stepped
out of his truck. The shelter Mac had described as a lean to was much better
than that, although it wasn't a full fledged barn. There were three sides
and a roof sheltered under some big oak trees. It looked like there would
be plenty of shade for all three horses.
Blaze and Boots seemed happy to be out of the trailer. They explored their
new corral and reacquainted themselves with Mac's horse, Sam. Mac went into
his house trailer and returned with three beers. Luis and I gratefully accepted
We sat on Mac's porch and watched the horses as we drank the beers.
Mac took a swig of his beer, set the can down, burped quietly, and then said,
"Say, I asked a couple of the detectives about your 'eleventh man' idea.
They hadn't heard anything about it. They said they still had nothing to go
on from the killings. No tracks. No clues. No nothing."
Luis was sitting next to me. I felt his body tense. I tried to cover. "Maybe
it's just some pet theory of the Sheriff. Maybe I misunderstood him when
"The detectives also said it was highly unusual for Sheriff Hardee to get
involved in an investigation. I wonder why he's so interested with this case?"
I felt Luis' muscles tense some more. "Maybe he was just trying to play up
to me as a potential voter. Too bad for him that I'm registered in San Diego
not Santa Teresa."
Mac sighed, "That must be it. It doesn't make sense any other way."
He looked off toward the horses. On the other side, I felt Luis relax and
heard him begin to breathe again.
I wanted to change the subject. Food was always a good way to do that. "Do
you guys want to get a pizza from Antonelli's? I'm kind of hungry?"
Mac rose from the porch, "That's a great idea! I'll go call in an order.
I think I've got some salad fixings that aren't too old, and there's at least
one more round of beer in the fridge. What do you guys want on your pizza?"
I looked at Luis. He shrugged his shoulders, and I realized that he'd probably
never had pizza before. "Uh...I'll take anything except anchovies. Is that
okay with you, Luis?"
"Sí, yes, that is okay to me also."
Mac grinned and ruffled Luis hair as he walked toward the house. "Good choice,
guys. I hate anchovies too."
I went into town and picked up the pizza while Luis and Mac worked on making
the salad. Antonelli's had great pizza. We'd ordered a supersize pie and finished
it all. Mac took care of half by himself. The man had an amazing appetite.
Mac didn't bring up anything about the murders or the body in my barn the
rest of the evening, and Luis and I avoided any topic that might steer him
that way. We had another beer each out on the porch before Luis and I gave
Mac a hug, climbed into the Tahoe, and headed back to my place.
We took a shower together. We spent a lot of time kissing and caressing in
the shower, but both of us were pretty tired so we didn't end up doing anything
really heavy in the shower or in the bed later. Luis curled up against my
side, and both of us were asleep within minutes of climbing into bed.
We had just finished breakfast the next morning when one of the now familiar
Santa Teresa County Sheriff's Patrol cruisers pulled up to the house. I recognized
one of the deputies from the day before as he got out of the driver's side
of the Crown Victoria. Agent James Napier of the INS climbed out from the
I thought for a moment that Luis was going to run out of the kitchen, but
the deer-in-the-headlights look in his eyes was quickly replaced by another
look, a look of resignation or acceptance, as the two law officers climbed
on to the porch and approached the door.
I met them at the door.
The deputy introduced himself as Deputy Malone. He was middle aged and overweight.
The heat from the day was already producing dark sweat stains under the arms
of his uniform blouse.
Napier barged past me into the kitchen. "We need to ask you some questions,
Nichols." He looked at Luis still seated at the kitchen table. "And who's
this, your houseboy?"
"You met my assistant, Luis Ebanez the other day, Napier"
The swarthy man looked disdainfully at Luis before turning back to me. "Can't
imagine what he's 'assisting' you with."
His meaning was clear. I bristled. "If you're finished trying to insult us,
Napier, why don't you ask your questions and leave. I'm pretty sure you don't
want to be here anymore than I want you here."
Deputy Malone broke into the exchange, "Uh, Mr. Nichols, we have an identification
on the man who was killed in your barn the other day. Do you know a Manuel
"No. Was that the man's name?"
"Yes. We got lucky with the dental records. Seems Mr. Estrada had some fancy
bridge work done recently. One of the dentists in town recognized the appliance."
"I'm sure I don't know him."
Napier pulled a sheet of paper from his pocket. "Recognize him?"
He handed me the paper. It was an enlargement of a Californian driver's license
photo showing a thin Hispanic man with a large mustache. "Nope. I don't recognize
I laid the photo on the kitchen table and turned back to Napier. "Do you
have anything else you wanted to ask, Napier?"
"I've got lots of questions, Nichols. First one is how does a man known to
be a smuggler end up murdered in your barn?"
"Yeah, murdered. Estrada took a bullet in the brain before the fire started."
"Yup, the arson boys knew right off it was a murder because Estrada's skull
was still intact."
"I don't understand."
"You've seen TV shows and movies where they show burned bodies?"
"Yes, but I still don't understand."
"They always show the person's head intact, right?"
"Well, that's not exactly correct. It would be too gruesome to show what
really happens when a body burns. You see the brain's mostly water. As the
heat from the fire starts to heat up the brain, all that water starts to
turn to steam. The brain is encased in bone with no where for that steam to
go. It's kind of like trying to cook an egg in the microwave. The egg heats
up inside and the pressure breaks the shell. Same thing happens with the
skull. That is unless there's already a hole in the skull. In this case,
a hole caused by a 38 caliber bullet."
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Luis reach for the picture on the table.
We all turned at the sound of Luis' exclamation.
He pointed at the picture on the table. "I...I...have seen this man."
Malone and Napier moved forward at once.
"Where did you see him?"
Luis looked up at me, swallowed hard, and then began to speak.
(To be continued)