My Belovèd is mine, and I am his.
Song of Songs 2:16
Monday morning was
business as usual for the MacKenzie household. Everyone was up and
out of bed by six a.m., gathered sleepily, and in some cases a little
grumpily, in the driveway in their running clothes. Mostly for
effect, some of the boys moaned and groaned as they did their stretches
in preparation for their morning run while the two border collies Alice
and Samantha walked among them excitedly, dragging their leashes behind
them. Limbered up, Ian,
Mary and Catherine started off together first at their normally slower
pace than the boys, who passed them up as the whole crowd swept down
the street. Kevin waved and grinned at the "oldsters," but
thankfully didn't crack wise as he went around them.
Mark had hold of Alice's leash and Carl, Sam's. The two dogs loved to run with their humans.
Cam was pleased to see everybody out there, if for no other reason than
running that first half mile was always a little painful, and
deserved to be shared. As he got into his rhythm, his thoughts
shifted to Berto, and he eyed the boy who was running a little ahead of
him. Tall and slim like Cam, Berto's long legs seemed to gobble up the
distance with no problem.
Cam knew that Berto and Ian would be heading into the city later
that morning to make arrangements for the visitation and funeral Mass
Berto's parents, and his stomach did a flip-flop as he thought about
it. He remembered how he'd felt when Catherine and Alex split
up--in and of itself a small, psychological approximation of death for
Cam's sense of family. But Cam knew that the MacKenzie divorce
couldn't begin to
compare with the feelings engendered for Berto by his parents' horrible
demise. He wanted to do something for his friend. But there
was no quick fix at the human level for Berto's pain,
Cam knew. None at all.
A moment later, Cam kicked himself mentally as he found himself
admiring the Hernandez boy's fine looking ass and good, solid legs as
the kid ran. His gaze moved over to Kevin's ass. Cam smiled. Lord, he thought to
himself, I'm such a fruit! And loving every minute of it.
He increased his speed to catch up with Kevin and run alongside
him. Glancing behind the group, Cam saw the adults had fallen
behind by almost a block, and he reached over and pinched Kevin's
ass. It was so taut and muscular in the boy's running shorts that
Cam's fingers could hardly get a grip.
"Hey!" Kevin said, faking a scandalized look. "I'm tellin'!"
"I'll deny it," Cam said, grinning. "You have a credibility problem, so every guy here will believe me, not you."
"Yeah, right, asshole!" Kevin contradicted. "Everybody knows you're
a 'fondler,' and pinching is just an extreme form of that."
"Booyah, white boy!!!" Cam said triumphantly, pleased by what he'd done.
William Carson looked around at them from his vantage point at the
front of the pack. "Shut the fuck up back there or I'm gonna kick
your asses when we get home! I'm trying to concentrate on my
running!" he kidded them.
"I know what a challenge it is for you, thinking and moving your body
at the same time!" Kevin responded. "Keep strugglin' with it,
William was about to respond, when another runner angled out of a side
street and joined them. It was Father Jim Mason, his light blue basketball
jersey now dark, soaked through with sweat.
"Are you stalkin' us?" Cam cracked to the priest, smiling, and before he thought better of it, he popped
the man on the ass like he did his soccer teammates at school. Cam blushed when he realized what he'd done.
"You should be so lucky!" Father Jim said, paying no attention to what had just been done to his butt.
"You're all sweated up, Father!" Kevin observed.
"Yes. I notice you guys aren't. Maybe if you kicked it up a notch...?"
"We're just gettin' started," Dan Emrick whined convincingly, and then laughed.
"Uh, huh!" the priest said.
The boys all ran in silence for a moment, and then Cam motioned with
his head for the priest to fall back in the pack. The two of them
slowed until there was a little gap between them and the other boys.
"Father," Cam said, "we got some bad news on Saturday you need to know
about. You remember Berto Hernandez, running just ahead of
us? You met him at church yesterday, but we didn't want to get
into it then. We heard that his
parents were murdered in their home Friday night in Monterey.
He's pretty much an orphan now except for us. I guess the
police believe that his uncle did it."
The priest lost a step and slowed, staring down at the ground in shock as he
ran. He sighed, and muttered to himself, "'He has brought down my
strength before my time; He has shortened the number of my days.'"
"What?" Cam said.
"It's from the Psalms," Mason said by way of explanation. He
looked at Cam. "I can't tell you how sorry I am. I read
about it in the paper, but I didn't put two and two together. Is
there anything I can do for Berto or for the family?"
"I don't think so, Father," Cam said. "Ian and Berto are going
into the city today, I think, to arrange for visitation followed by a Requiem Mass at
the Hernandez's parish church. I just wanted you to know."
"I appreciate it," the priest said, shaking his head sorrowfully. He
slowly sped up until he was running next to Berto, and looked over at
"I'm sorry, Berto," he said without preamble. "Let me know if
there's anything I can do or if you ever want to talk about things."
"Thank you, Father," Berto said, and the group all ran in silence for a
few minutes until the
priest bid the boys good-bye with a wave of his hand and peeled off from
the other runners. He headed for his apartment to get
ready to report to St. Andrew's. He was offering Mass that
and made a mental note to remember the souls of Berto's parents in his
The boys finished their usual five mile run, and by the time they
arrived home, Catherine, Mary and Ian, all of whom usually ran
only a couple of miles, were preparing to start a breakfast of fresh
pancakes, eggs and bacon under Rosa's direction.
Rosa teared up when she saw Berto, whom she had not seen since Friday,
and pulled him to the side of the room, hugging him and pulling his face down for a
kiss. The two of them
talked quietly with each other in Spanish for several minutes.
Berto's eyes were wet when he rejoined the other boys. They all
went upstairs for quick showers before the meal. In his and his
bathroom, Cam stripped off his sweaty running shorts and jock, relieved
himself in the toilet and flushed it. He put the toilet seat and
lid down and sat on it, staring at Kevin's sweet ass. The latter
was still dressed in his shorts as he opened the door of the shower and reached inside to
start the water running.
"Kev," Cam said.
"Don't start the shower. Commere."
Kevin turned around and looked at him. "We don't have time to fool around."
"I know. But commere."
Kevin walked over to his seated partner and stood in front of
him. Cam took hold of those sheer nylon shorts that Kevin favored
for running sometimes and pulled them down. The shorts puddled around his
ankles, leaving the boy standing there in his jock. Kevin grinned
and started to pull off his jock, but Cam stopped him, putting his face
right in the pouch of Kevin's basket and inhaling. It was pure
Kevin he was smelling, and it was pure heaven.
"Spread 'em," Cam told Kevin, who dutifully widened his stance.
Reaching between the boy's legs, Cam ran a middle finger down Kevin's
sweaty crack for moisture and probed his hole, then worked his finger
inside slowly until he found Kevin's button. He massaged his
partner's prostate gently as Kevin's jock began to bulge in Cam's face
from the hardness within it.
"Oh, shit," Kevin groaned softly, spreading his legs wider yet and
tilting his head back with his eyes closed. Then he leaned
forward over Cam and kissed the top of his head, little spikes of hair from Cam's buzz cut poking
him in the face.
"Damn, I love you, bro!" Kevin panted. "You're way too good at this!"
Cam smiled, and used his face, his lips, his nose and his teeth over several
minutes to arouse Kevin fully, constrained though the boy was by his
"I'm gonna come," Kevin squeaked eventually.
"That's the idea," Cam mumbled through his mouthful of Kevin's
goodies. He could already taste a hint of the boy's sweet pre-cum
soaking through the cotton.
A moment later, Kevin opened his mouth in a silent shout and filled the
pouch of his jock with shot after shot of his semen. When he
finished, he slumped down over Cam and just stood there, legs wide apart,
hanging on to him.
But Cam wasn't finished yet. As Kevin started to recover his
wits, Cam moved the jock carefully down his partner's legs and had him
step out of it. Kevin's dick, still a little hard, was right
there in Cam's face, and he engulfed it in his mouth to clean the
splooge off of it, running his tongue over the head of it and through the slit of it again
and again. Kevin was too sensitive down there now for that, and pulled back a
little. Picking up the jock from the floor, Cam put the
pouch to his face, first smelling it deeply, and then licking and
Kevin's load right out of it as Kevin looked on.
"You are so gay!" Kevin said softly, grinning, running his fingers through Cam's hair.
"Y'know, I was thinking the very same thing when we were running this morning," Cam said, looking up.
"I love you totally for it," Kevin said. "You're better at this shit than you have any right to be."
"You're repeating yourself. Anyway, you've taught me everything I know."
"What you haven't taught me isn't worth knowing," Cam said with a big
smile, taking one last lick of Kevin's jock before pitching it in the
general direction of the clothes hamper.
"That's my favorite jock now," Kevin laughed as he stared at it, lying
wadded up on the bathroom floor. "I'll probably have flashbacks
about this sweet deal for the rest of my life."
"As well you should," Cam agreed, grinning.
They got in the shower together, laughing and holding one another,
washing one another gently. Standing at Cam's side, Kevin was
washing Cam's dick when he
decided to add to the shower menu. He got his partner hard and
stroked him off against the shower wall while probing Cam's pucker with
the middle finger of his other hand. After he'd come, Cam looped
soapy arm around Kevin's neck and hung on him as they watched the thick
shots of copious spunk slide slowly down the tiles. Kevin grinned
diverted water from the shower head to the wall and washed the semen
down the drain.
Finishing up their bathing then, they quickly cleaned their
teeth. Then they dressed and headed
downstairs, as happy and relaxed as it was possible for two adolescent
boys to be, joining the adults and other boys around the dining room
Carl glanced at Cam's and Kevin's faces, saw the glow, and
knew in an instant
what they'd been doing upstairs. He smiled and tried to put his
envy of their sex life out of his mind. Thank God somebody
was having a good time. He really needed to get laid, though, he thought
to himself. And laid by a handsome, horny boy, now that he was beginning to get more
comfortable with his emerging preference.
Back to reality.
"Ian, would you return thanks?" Catherine asked when everyone was quiet. They all joined hands.
"Father, in the midst of Berto's and our sorrow, give us grateful hearts for the food
we are about to the receive," Ian prayed. "Help us to know, even
in the darkest of days, that we are living, and will always live, the
true life of the Resurrection, through Jesus Christ our Lord."
Cam couldn't help reflecting on how death and life--life to the full as
he and Kevin had just enjoyed it, and the death of those we love
most--were inevitably conjoined and somehow required to be dealt with in the deep
of the human mind and heart.
They all made the sign of the cross after the prayer, and Mark reached over without a word and dapped his father as they all
sat down. Ian looked surprised and pleased. Mary and
Catherine began passing platters of cut-up fruit, bacon and eggs,
toast, pancakes, butter and syrup, along with pitchers of orange juice, tea and coffee around the
table. Ian poured himself a cup of coffee, smelled the steam, and
took a little sip after blowing across the cup. Cam poured
himself a cup of coffee as well.
"Don't drink that, man," William Carson told Cam. "It'll make ya
squirrelly." He paused. "Uh, more squirrelly, I mean."
"Shut up," Cam replied reflexively as he added milk and cream to the coffee.
A few minutes ensued with no sounds but that of clinking silverware
and chewing jaws. The boys all had seconds on the food while the
back and sipped their beverages of choice, watching the eating machines
seated around the table empty every dish on it.
Mary Carson laughed, breaking the silence. "It's like a plague of locusts," she
said. "Hungry locusts. Not that there are any other kind."
No one could deny the obvious, and the boys smiled and just kept on
chewing. When everybody was finished eating, Ian looked around
"Catherine and Mary and I want to talk to you before we all go our own
ways this morning," he said. "First of all, we've decided to
bring Yolanda Vega here with us to help Rosa keep house. Rosa
never complains," Ian said, looking up at the maid and smiling, "but
there's just too much work here for her even when we all help
out. And when little Kevin comes home, there will be just that
much more to do. Yolanda has been too lonely living in the condo
by herself, and she
wants to be with us. Catherine has agreed that we can open the
maid's quarters off the kitchen here for Yolanda to stay in.
"We'll bring her here this afternoon, because as you know, Berto and I
into Monterey today to make funeral arrangements for his parents, and
to go by
his house to pick up some things he wants. We'll be passing
through the city and will stop at the condo on the way home. By
the way, I'm
Navigator so we'll have plenty of room for Berto's and Yolanda's
things, so you guys will have to use the rental car if you need a
vehicle. Obviously, we'll be able to tell you more about plans for the
visitation and Requiem Mass when we get back late this afternoon.
things will probably be a little more complicated than we'd like.
First of all, the visitation and funeral are likely going to be under
tight security by the Monterey police, the California Highway Patrol,
and a private security firm I'm going to engage today. I think
we'll have everything covered, including a diversionary route of travel
home both today and after the funeral, which will probably be on
Wednesday or Thursday. But there are no guarantees of safety.
"And that raises the question about who will attend the funeral," Ian
continued. "We're reluctant to put you guys at risk by letting
any of you go except for Berto. But we wanted to talk to you
about it before making a final decision."
The boys looked at Berto out of the corners of their eyes, and then at
each other. Ian was surprised when Mark, the youngest boy of all,
jumped in first.
"Dad, I know you're all worried about us. And I know we all need
to be cautious. But we really need to stick with Berto right
now." He paused. "If anyone ever needs to see anybody at a
funeral, it's family. And I think we'd all agree,
we're family for Berto now. All of us. How can we not be there
Moved, Berto looked down at the table, and then put his hands over his face, resting his elbows on the table.
"Mark's right, Ian," Cam said. "All us guys have agreed that
we're going to take care of each other. This isn't an event
that any of us saw coming, and I understand that we have to be sharp
about the way things are planned, but we have an obligation to our
'brother' to be with him and support him right now. We owe him
that, even if there are some special challenges involved. I want
to be there. I need to be there."
"Dad," William weighed in, "you and Mom have always told Mark and me
that when the wrong thing goes down, we should do everything we can to
make it right. It's not right to let some bad person or
bad circumstances keep us from doing the right thing. And the right
thing is to be there at that visitation and at that church for our
"I feel as if I should be there, Ian," Carl said. "If my father
is behind what Berto's uncle has done, and still wants to do, and I
have no doubts about that, then I think Dan and I have an obligation to
tough it out with Berto in honor of his parents. If I don't do
this, it'll bother me for the rest of my life, I know that."
"Carl's right," Dan said. "I feel the same way."
"I'm going, no matter what," Kevin said, throwing a challenge out on
the table. He was a little sorry he did it before the words were out
of his mouth.
"Well, let me clear that up for you right now," Ian said as Catherine
looked disapprovingly at Kevin. "What you're going to do, and all
the rest of you are going to do, is exactly what we tell you to
do. Am I getting through to you, Kevin?"
"Ian, if I decide to go to Monterey, I'll go if I have to walk to
get there," Kevin shot back stubbornly, looking the man right in the
Surprised by the boy's defiance, the other boys looked down at the table as Ian and Kevin locked eyes with one another.
The kid has stones, Ian thought to himself, trying not to smile.
Catherine broke in.
"Kevin, I want to remind you that you and Cam have some new and important
responsibilities," she said. "I'm talking about
responsibilities for little Kevin. That baby will depend on you for
everything in his life right now and for a long time. You're young, but you're not
free agents anymore. You have no business putting yourself or
your partner at risk if Ian, Mary and I decide there's too much
danger involved in having you go to the funeral."
Kevin looked thoughtful and embarrassed, staring down at his
plate now. He sighed. "I'm sorry. You're right, Mom. I apologize, Ian."
"I know every one of you guys wants to be there for your friend," Ian said.
"But do you understand what I'm saying about the potential danger?" he
asked. "Yes" and "Yes, Sir"
echoed around the table. With the boys under control for the
moment, Ian looked at them. "Catherine and Mary and I will
discuss the matter some more, and we'll let you know later what our
Ian stood up and nodded at the guys, and the family meeting was over,
the bone of contention as to whether the boys would actually get to go
to Monterey yet unresolved.
Berto sat back in his chair and stood up. "Thanks,
everybody. Thank you..." His voice broke. "Thank you
for everything you're trying to do for me." He began to weep
silently, the tears sliding down his cheeks.
Ian rubbed the boy's back, and gave him a side hug. "We know
you appreciate it, Berto. Let's get changed, and get on the road. Put
on your new suit, shirt and tie and shoes, so when you and I negotiate
with folks today, they'll know from the gitgo that you're someone to be reckoned with. Is that all right with you?"
As everyone started going his own way, the telephone rang, and Cam answered it. It was the hospital,
wanting to talk to Kevin. When Kevin took the call, they told him
that little Kevin was ready to go home from the hospital that
afternoon, and reminded him that he would need a child seat suitable
for an infant in order to transport the baby home. Cam and Kevin high
fived, genuinely happy that little Kevin Cameron would be coming home.
"Don't forget that we have an appointment at the clinic right after
school to check for STD's," Cam told Kevin after they'd gone upstairs to get their back
packs for school.
"Yep," Kevin said. "Now that's something I'm not looking forward to."
"Somebody else's hand will be on your dick other than yours or mine for a change," Cam said, grinning.
"If the doc is cute, I might like it," Kevin said.
"I figured that. That's why I asked for a woman doctor for you when I made the appointment."
Kevin made a threatening move toward him and chased Cam down the back stairs and out to the car.
* * *
After he finished dressing in his new suit for the trip to
Monterey, Berto needed some help putting
on his tie. Ian went to the room the boy was now sharing with William and Carl, and stood behind him in front of
the mirror, arms
around him and hands on the tie, and showed him, step by step, how to
tie a windsor knot. Berto's mother and father had both been
demonstrative with Berto all his life, and it warmed him to be
touched again by an adult who cared about him.
"Looks good," Ian told the boy as they gazed at the finished product.
A few minutes later there were two sharp looking men, one young and
one older, pulling out of
the MacKenzie driveway in the Navigator, heading for Monterey.
Ian had put Berto behind the wheel to help keep the boy's mind occupied as
The first thing Ian did was flip open his cell phone and call Assistant DCFS
Director Lauren Reed, who had been so helpful resolving the custody of Carl
and Dan Emrick. She asked how the two boys were doing right out
of the box, and he reassured her that things were fine.
The Ian brought her up to date on the fact that the whole Carson
family, including Carl and Dan, was now living in San Rafael with Dr.
Catherine MacKenzie, a professor at St. Francis University, and the
reason for that. He also filled her in on how it was that Berto
had come into his custody, and why the boy was also living with
Catherine, Mary and him due to the death of his parents and fear of his
"This whole thing with Berto's parents was horrible!" Lauren commented. "I read about it in the papers, but I didn't know DCFS would be involved."
"It was a bad deal," Ian said, not wanting to talk about the murders at any greater length in front of Berto.
"Thank God for you and Mary," Lauren added. "Your family is kind of a magnet for kids in trouble, isn't it, Ian?"
"I guess it is. Anyway, we'd like to finalize taking custody of
Berto as soon as possible. Our whereabouts has to remain secret,
though, because Berto's uncle is pretty much looking for all of
us. He's capable of doing the worst, we know that."
"I'll talk to the manager of our office in Marin County right
away in confidence, and get back to you with some dates and times for a home visit to
Dr. MacKenzie's. I want to make the visit myself with the manager,
if we can work it out."
"Thank you so much, Lauren. You've been wonderful to work
with. The only days you should probably steer away from for the visit are
Wednesday and Thursday of this week because we'll be having church
services in Monterey for Berto's parents on one of them."
"All right, Ian," Lauren said. "I have your cell phone number. Do you want to give me Dr. MacKenzie's home phone?"
"Yes." Ian rattled it off by heart. "By the way, Tom
Ridenour is all clued in on what's happening, and Berto and I are on
the way to the Monterey police department right now to meet him about
security for the day of the funeral."
The two of them concluded with pleasantries and Lauren Reed's promise
to call back about a "suitability" home visit to the MacKenzie house.
Ian snapped his phone shut and put it away, and he and Berto drove in silence for a few minutes until Ian spoke to the boy.
"Catherine told me that you and she had a good talk about your family the other day."
"Yes, we did." Berto looked at him and then back at the road. "She's easy to talk to."
"I know she is. The fact she's been a professor all these
years, working with young people, probably has something to do with it."
"Yeah, that's part of it," Berto said. "But even more than that,
I knew the minute I met her that I could trust her. There are
just people like that, y'know. Not many. But a few."
"I agree." Ian paused. "Tell me a little bit about your life in Monterey."
"Oh, man," Berto said. "I don't really know where to start."
Ian remained silent.
"Well, as you might guess, my family lived in an all-Hispanic
neighborhood, and most of the time we were pretty happy about
that. I was, anyway. Most of our neighbors owned their own
houses, as my parents did, so they tried to take good care of
them. My high school was about half Hispanic, one quarter black,
and the remainder white. We all got along pretty well at school,
but there sure wasn't a lot of crossing racial or ethnic lines in dating or hanging out.
Blacks and Hispanics had their own gangs, but not so much the
white kids. Our school building was old and falling
down, and all graffitied up."
"Did you play sports?" Ian asked.
"I ran track. Sports were the one place the kids were all pretty integrated. Everybody got along."
"Looking back, did your family have enough money to live on and have some nice things?"
"Compared with a lot of people in our neighborhood, we were pretty well
off. My mom and dad were both employed, and making enough money to get by,
I guess. I didn't have everything I wanted, but I had
everything I needed, and then some. They helped me buy my car,
and I had some pretty nice clothes. They were good to me."
Berto choked up and stopped talking for a moment before continuing.
"I certainly had more than I would have had in Mexico, but I didn't
have anywhere near what your kids, and the Emricks, and Cam and Kevin
have," Berto continued. "I'm really getting to like the guys, but
they're totally clueless about how good they have it and how well they live
and what they have compared to most of the families here in this
country, or anywhere else in the world. I'm not blaming them, I'm
"I know exactly what you're saying," Ian said. "We don't talk
about that in this country, though, unfortunately. We don't talk about whether
families have enough money to feed and educate and house and clothe
their children. We're supposed to be oblivious to these things
because we're told by our leadership that our capitalist economic system never
makes any mistakes, and everybody gets exactly what he deserves in this
life as long as he's 'responsible' in fulfilling his duties. We
don't talk about economic inequities because our political discussions
in this country have been completely subverted from the concept
of the common good to focusing on things like the 'horrors' of same-sex marriage
and lying about the reasons we're sending youngsters with brown skins
and black skins and poorly educated white boys and girls abroad to get
their asses blown off! It's unconscionable!"
Ian's face had turned red and he was speaking a little loudly, and
Berto looked over at him, not knowing what to think because he had
never seen the man angry before. Ian looked back and then chuckled.
"No, he said, "I'm not going ballistic on you." He gazed out
the car window over the sparkling water as they moved quickly across
the Golden Gate
Bridge. "Do you know that the real median income for Americans
declined by 3% from 2000 to 2004? Do you know that households
earning between $25,000 to $99,000 dollars--in other words, income for
middle class American families--shrank 1.5% during those years?
Real average weekly earnings fell four tenths of a percent in
2005. The savings rate is in the toilet, lower than it's been in
73 years, and average credit card debt is higher than it's ever been,
more than $9,000 per household. And the average cost of a college
education is over $12,000 at a public university, and nearly $30,000 at
a private one. Americans work more hours per person per year than
in any country in the world. The economic pressure on poor and
families today is terrible, and cause people not to think clearly about
what's really going on. The statistics I cited may not sound like much, but they're catastrophic for some families."
Berto snuck a look at the man. "How do you know all this?"
"I study it. I had the privilege of attending Stanford University
for my undergraduate degree in economics and graduate degree in law. Stanford is about as
close to the Ivy League as we get out here in California." Ian
paused and looked over at the boy. "And
after you've healed a little bit from what's happened to your family,
Berto, I want to send you there, and I'll pay for it. I can get
you in because I have power and money and I know how to use it, and
because I think you have the smarts and a good heart. When you're
finished and emerge from that institution, maybe as a lawyer, as
Catherine told me you may want to be, I want your mind to be horrified
your heart broken about what's happening to our country. Then
you'll have something to offer this world. You won't be a child
of the elite who has paid others to write his papers and do his
studying for him and take his tests in college so he can skate through life.
That's the kind of leadership that will be running our country in your
league with religious bigots. Many of these people are clueless
and immoral. I mean really immoral. As terrible a person as
your uncle may be and Walter Emrick may be, they hardly hold a candle
to the monumental economic immorality I'm talking about in our leadership today." He
snorted. "Among their other sins, these are the kind of people
who cynically persecute good kids like Cam MacKenzie and Kevin Stoltz
because they love each other and sleep in the same damned bed!"
Berto looked at him, stunned by his vehemence.
"I not sure I understand everything you've said. But why would
you put someone like me who's practically a stranger though school?"
"I'm recruiting you, that's why. I'm recruiting you so you'll be
equipped to grasp some of the dwindling chances we have to save
this country from itself, and bring us back to a society that we can be
proud to live in. That's why."
* * *
Alejandro Hernandez laughed as he read Monterey's morning paper. What a rag! he thought to himself. There was a
death notice in there already for his brother and his bitch of a
sister-in-law, and he knew that arrangements for the visitation and
funeral Mass would probably be appearing the next day. People
were so predictable, and he was just the person who could take advantage of
that. He knew without a doubt that Berto would choose Vargas's
Funeral Home to prepare the bodies and hold the visitation, and that
Our Lady of Guadalupe would host the funeral Mass. It was a neighborhood thing.
Obviously, the funeral home and the church were two points at which he would be able to take out
Berto, and also the two Emrick boys if they were somehow stupid enough
to show up for the "festivities." Alejandro knew he had to fulfill his contract
with Walter Emrick or the man would expect his money back. Not
that he'd give it back.
Houses lined the street across from both Vargas's and Our Lady of
Guadalupe, and if his memory was correct, many of them had attic
windows on the third floor through which he could squeeze off a few
well-placed shots with a rifle he had purchased from a friend a few
Alejandro discarded the newspaper and hailed a cab in front of the flea bag hotel
where he'd been staying under an assumed name, heading out to scout
the territory. If the owners of the houses he picked for his
dirty work didn't want to cooperate for the money he would offer, they
wouldn't live to tell about it. Life was so simple.
* * *
Just as he'd said he would be, Captain Tom Ridenour was in the chief's
office at the Monterey Police Department when Ian and Berto arrived at
10 a.m. Chief Jim Henderson, a Viet Nam veteran and veteran
police office on the brink of retirement from the Monterey P.D., made everybody
welcome after introductions were made. Ian was impressed with the
chief's acuity and demeanor. As Henderson and Tom Ridenour shook
hands with Berto, they expressed their condolences on the loss of his
parents. Coffee was served, except that Berto had bottled water.
Tom Ridenour explained to Chief Henderson his and Ian's belief that
Emrick had hired Berto's uncle Alejandro to kill Emrick's own children,
Carl being the abuse victim and sole witness against him in the child
case. He added that Ian and the entire Carson family were now
more likely targets than before because they'd taken in Berto, whom
Alejandro had hired to
discover the Emrick boys' whereabouts. Henderson already knew
that Alejandro was the chief
suspect in the murder of Berto's parents. The visitation and
funeral for Berto's parents, Ridenour said, would be perfect occasions
for Alejandro to take out any members of the extended Carson family who
Once informed of the tentative sites for the upcoming visitation and
funeral, Henderson pulled down large wall maps of the city that one
could write on with magic markers, and began to circle the sites and
discuss some of the challenges for security they posed. After
thoroughly familiarizing themselves with the maps, including streets of
ingress and egress, Ridenour suggested that they take a ride and
reconnoiter the area in question firsthand. Ridenour rode with
the chief and one of his lieutenants, and Ian and Berto went in the
Navigator so they could stay behind afterwards to make final arrangements with the
funeral home people and with the pastor at Our Lady of Guadalupe
church for the visitation and funeral.
The three police officers identified the third story of the houses across
the street from the church and the funeral home immediately as a
potential havens for a sniper. The chief committed one contingent
of his SWAT team for the
two sites, who would be given special instructions to watch the higher
windows of the
neighborhood houses. Fortunately, both the church and the funeral
home had areas at the rear of their properties which were totally
protected from view on the street. It was getting back to those protected sites that
posed a danger.
Berto pretty much went numb as Ian and the three police officers
finished formulating their security plans, which would include
distribution of Alejandro's mug shot to all the police officers and
private security who would be hired by Ian to be on duty. The
private security would work under the direction of the onsite police
When they were satisfied with preliminary security arrangements, the police officers went back
to the chief's office, and Ian and Berto first visited the pastor at
Our Lady of Guadeloupe, followed up by a visit to the funeral director
at Vargas Funeral Home. Still numb, Berto let Ian make most of
the decisions, only speaking up when he was asked a question. The
priest, Father Saucedo, was very kind and gentle with the boy.
Ian was pleased about the arrangements for the visitation and Mass at
the church. The visitation would be from 9 to 11 a.m. on
Wednesday, followed by the Requiem Mass at the church at 11:30 a.m.
Ian then got on the telephone to a very professional security agency
that his law firm had used numerous times, and engaged them for twenty
officers for Wednesday starting at 8 a.m. Their field commander
was instructed to get in touch with the SWAT team commander at the
Monterey Police Department for deployment and specific orders.
Ian knew that the hard part was yet to come--when Berto went back to
his house for the first time since the murders. When they got
into the Navigator at the funeral home, Berto behind the wheel again,
Ian spoke up.
"Berto, are you sure you're up to stopping by your house today?"
"I don't know. I have to do it sometime, so..."
"All right," Ian said, feeling terrible for the boy. "But we can leave anytime you want to."
Berto fired up the car engine, and they drove a few blocks over to the
Hernandez's house. Berto had been accurate in his description. It was a nice
neighborhood, full of tidy little houses all painted up and in good
repair. There was no litter on the streets, and the tiny, fenced lawns
were all trimmed.
They looked at the front door of Berto's house, and were stunned to see
at least a hundred bouquets of flowers fastened there and across the
"The neighbors," Berto explained, starting to tear up.
After they alighted from the truck, a girl about Berto's age came down
off her porch next door and over to Berto, speaking to him in
Spanish. They talked briefly and hugged silently as Ian hung
back, and the girl
went back home. Ian and Berto climbed the steps to the house and
saw remnants of crime scene tape clinging to the front door.
Berto inserted his key in the lock, and they went inside.
Except where the crime scene investigators had moved a few things and
the blood on the carpet, the house was immaculate inside. Ian sat
down in an easy chair and closed his eyes for a moment while Berto went
to his parents' bedroom and pulled two suitcases out of their
closet. Taking them to his own room, he began to put some of his
favorite clothes into the suitcases along with an ipod that he'd worked all one summer to buy, and a
Berto came out of his bedroom carrying the two suitcases and sat down
in a chair across from Ian. The boy's eyes scanned the room,
knowing that he might not see it again for awhile, if ever. He
looked at his mother's inexpensive little art treasures scattered around the room,
and began to sob as they sat there.
Ian struggled to keep tight control of his emotions so he wouldn't
break into tears himself as he sat in the chair and looked around the
living room. So many memories here, he thought to himself,
thinking about Berto's mother and father and their life together.
Finally, he asked Berto, "Do you want
to take the desktop computer with
us?" He nodded at a computer on a desk against the wall.
"Yes, if there's room in the truck. I have some programs and files on it."
"We'll make room. But we'll be back here when your uncle is in custody," Ian tried to assure him.
"Mrs. Vega will need room for her things in the truck," Berto reminded Ian.
"There will be."
The two of them unhooked and unplugged the computer components and
carried them out to the Navigator. Then Berto retrieved his
suitcases and locked the front door again.
"Have you ever eaten on the Wharf?" Ian asked Berto when they got in the truck, Ian at the wheel this time.
"One time when I was a kid," Berto said. "It's pretty pricey down there. Lots of tourists."
"Yeah," Ian agreed. "We have some time before we have to pick up
Yolanda. Let's go up there and grab some lunch. My treat."
They did. Once in San Francisco, Ian put the truck in a park and lock lot, with the computer
in the third row of seats covered up with some of Berto's
clothes. They walked through the raw wind to the Ferry Building,
and went to the Slanted Door. They didn't have reservations, but
the maitre de recognized Ian immediately, and seated him and
Berto right away at a table with a breathtaking view of the Bay.
Ian slipped the man a generous tip. At Ian's urging, when it was
time to order, Berto had crab on glass noodles as the main course, as
did his host. It was mouth wateringly good.
The service was great. The restaurant staff turned over the
tables in the place without making anyone feel that they were being hurried through
their meal. When he and Berto were finished, Ian paid the bill,
once again leaving a generous tip, this time for the wait staff. They walked
back to the Navigator and left for Ian's condo.
Berto smiled as they sat in the driveway and waited for the gate to the garage to open.
"You don't know how many hours I sat across the street and waited for you to come home," he told Ian.
Ian smiled, saying nothing, and after parking, they took the elevator up to the penthouse.
Yolanda Vega greeted the two of them at the condo door when they arrived
upstairs. She hugged Ian and met Berto, greeting him in Spanish
and giving him a hug.
"I miss the family so much, Mister Ian," Yolanda said. "It too lonely here now."
Ian smiled. "Enjoy the last few moments of peace while you've
have it, Yolanda," he said. "Seven boys and a baby are going to provide plenty
of noise and confusion where we're going."
"I ready for it," Yolanda said, smiling. "You know that."
They went into the living room, furnished with low profile, modern
furniture with some antiques interspersed, along with beautiful,
original oils on the walls, to get Yolanda's two
suitcases and a garment bag. Berto looked out the huge windows,
and was stunned by the view of the city from that vantage point.
Ian went back to Mark's and William's rooms, picking up a few items
they had asked him to get for them, putting them into a book bag he found
in Mark's closet to carry them.
When they were ready to go, Ian and Berto carried Yolanda's clothes
down to the garage. Ian let Berto drive again, Yolanda sharing
the second row seats with some of her luggage. As a precaution,
Ian had Berto exit the garage through a little used door out on to a
side street just in case they had been followed.
Soon they were flying across the Golden Gate Bridge on the way back to
San Rafael. Berto was still a little numb after visiting his
house, but despite his pain over losing his parents, he was grateful to
Ian Carson and his family and Catherine MacKenzie for taking him
in. And grateful to all the boys for their kindness and for just
being there for him in dark days. He realized he cared a lot about every one of them.
* * *
Cam wasted no time whipping the Camaro
out of the school parking lot after their last class with Kevin riding shotgun. He
headed first toward a mall, where they went to a baby store and
bought a child seat suitable for transporting an infant. It
had the FTC seal of approval, and recommendations from lots of other children's organizations.
Then, with some lingering reluctance, they drove to the clinic to get
tested for STD's. Kevin took Cam's hand before they got
out of the car.
"I'm glad we're doing this, but we're all right, y'know," he told him confidently.
Cam looked into his partner's handsome face, and his chest tightened up
with the love he felt for this boy. He raised Kevin's hand and kissed
"I know. Let's hit it."
They went inside and signed in, the young girl behind the reception
desk obviously smitten with the boys' good looks. She tried to
them in unnecessary, casual conversation before the boys sat
down, and then checked them out thoroughly from across the waiting room. The guys
filled out some paper work. Ten minutes later they were placed in
separate examination rooms, given
gowns and told to strip and hang up their clothes in a little
closet. Cam hoped that
Kevin wouldn't really get a woman doctor to examine him, because he'd
hear the end of it if he did.
A nurse came in first and swabbed the inside of Cam's cheek with some
kind of sophisticated Q-tip that could be withdrawn inside its own cover. "This is the oral
test for HIV," she explained as she capped it. "We'll know in 10
minutes whether it's positive or negative. If it's negative, the
test for HIV is complete. If it's positive, we'll have to draw
some blood for additional tests." She left the room, taking the
sample with her. She returned with a middle aged, male doctor in
a few minutes, who snapped on a pair of rubber gloves.
"Hello, I'm Dr. Alexander," the man said to Cam. "You're negative for
HIV," the doctor told him. "And that's good news," he added. "Are you are
"Yes," Cam said.
"All right. Now we want to examine you for other STD's.
We'll look at your skin for pubic or anal warts and for sores.
Lie down on the table on your back, if you will, and raise your
gown." Cam complied, and the nurse left the room. The
doctor put on a reflector headset, adjusted the angle of reflection,
and began examining Cam's penis and crotch area. When he was
done, he had him turn over on the table. Telling Cam to spread
his cheeks, he checked his anus.
"You're good," the doctor said.
Cam turned over on his back on the table and began breathing again.
"Now, one last test," the doctor said, smiling faintly. "It's a
little uncomfortable, but not really painful. The dreaded
The doctor walked over to the counter and opened a drawer. He
removed a slim package, and tore off the cellophane cover. He
turned back to Cam carrying a little plastic stick tapering down to a
small, smooth, round point.
"I'm afraid to ask," Cam said.
"Yeah, I have to insert this in your urethra. Not far up, but it has to stay in there for a minute."
"Yeah. You ready?"
"Yes," Cam said, taking a breath.
The doctor grasped the boy's penis, and pulling back on the head to
spread the piss slit open, and gently inserted the plastic stick a short
way up it. Cam gasped.
"Are you all right?" the doctor asked quietly. Cam nodded. Leaving the stick where
it was for thirty more seconds, the doctor then
slowly withdrew the test stick. Cam audibly exhaled in relief as
the doctor took the stick over to the counter. He sealed it in a
special tube, and peeling a label off Cam's paper work, placed it on
the tube for identification.
"It will be a few days before we have the results of this last
test. Do you want us to send you a written notice of all our
findings, or do you want to call here for the results?"
"I'd like to call," Cam said. "But can I get them in writing, too?"
"All right." The doctor removed another sticker from Cam's
packet, and placed it on a card with the clinic's address and telephone
number. "Here's your ID number. Just call and ask for
clinic results, and give your ID, and they'll tell you. If it's
positive for anything, you'll be given an appointment to come back for treatment,
and you should do that. Otherwise, any sexual partners you may
have will be put at risk. Do you understand?"
"Have you always used protection when you have sex?"
"Yes, sir. All the time."
"That's good. Stay careful. Please stay careful." The
doctor smiled. "You can get dressed and leave anytime you're
ready. Thank you for coming in."
"Thank you, Doctor."
Cam put his clothes on, and went back to the waiting room. Kevin
wasn't there yet. The receptionist made eyes at him, but he
avoided eye contact and picked up a magazine to read. Kevin came out in a couple of
minutes, and they walked out of the office.
"Shit, man," Kevin said after they left the building. "Why didn't you tell me they were going to shove a log up my dick?"
"It wasn't a log, exactly!" Cam corrected his partner, laughing.
"Quit complaining. I didn't know what they were gonna do, or I'd
have practiced on you at home."
Kevin snorted derisively. "It didn't matter," he said,
grinning. "My dick is so big, that stick hardly touched me
"Yeah, right!" Cam said, and they both broke down laughing. "Were
the lady doctor's hands soft on your privates?" Cam asked.
"There was no lady doctor, you lyin' piece o' shit!"
They drove over to the hospital, and contrary to Cam's usual practice,
parked close to the hospital door where his car doors just could
possibly be dented
by other car doors. They went directly to the maternity ward,
taking the child carrier up with them. Little Kevin was ready to
go as soon as the nurse put a sweater on the child and a little cap on
head. The little guy didn't make a sound, but followed every
movement around him with those big, alert brown eyes of his. Cam
and Kevin buckled him into his carrier, and after Kevin signed some
papers, away they went to the car.
Kevin climbed into the back seat while Cam worked from the front passenger side, buckling the travel seat to the back of
the passenger seat facing backward. Little Kevin was still silent and observant. Cam
bent down and kissed the baby's head before he got out and closed the passenger door. Starting the car, he drove toward
"I love this baby," Cam told his partner. "I haven't seen
anything this cute since the first time I met you. That was a
long time ago."
"Uh huh," Kevin said.
Kevin talked to the infant most of the way home in his soprano child
voice, and had the rapt attention of his son.
"I'm happy!" Kevin said to his partner as they finally drove in the driveway. "Happy, happy, happy!"
The boys had no sooner carried the child in the MacKenzie back door
than they were swarmed by everybody in the house. Ian and Berto
were back, and there was a lady in a maid's uniform standing in
the background, smiling, but everybody else surrounded them and peered
at the child, talking excitedly. Little Kevin was scared, and
started to cry.
"Why don't you take him upstairs and give him his bottle?" Catherine
suggested. "But first, I want you to meet Yolanda Vega, an
important member of Ian and Mary's family. She's going to help us
out, especially now that the baby is here."
Cam went over to Yolanda, and instead of shaking hands with her,
enveloped the woman in his arms, kissing her cheek. Yolanda
beamed, and then Kevin, holding the carrier on one arm, came over and
hugged and kissed her as well.
"Mom, we met Yolanda when we stopped at the Carsons' on the way home
from the Big Sur," Kevin said as Cam nodded. "It's really good to
see you again, Yolanda!"
"I know Cam and Kevin," Yolanda said, smiling.
"I forgot," Catherine said.
Cam carried little Kevin up the back stairs, followed by Mark Carson
and Dan Emrick. As they took the baby out of his carrier and put
him in his crib for a moment, Cam and Kevin noticed a few changes to the room since
morning. For one thing, Catherine had bought them a little floor
model refrigerator which was humming away. When Kevin opened its
door, there were a dozen bottles of baby formula sitting inside. There was also a new table with a hot plate on it and a
pan to heat water when it was time to warm the bottles.
"Thanks, Mommy," Kevin said to himself. He picked the baby up,
and putting him in the center of his and Cam's bed, lay down beside him
and started to croon to him. The baby jerked his arms and legs
and seemed to smile. Gas pains, maybe, Kevin thought to himself, remembering from the baby class.
"Little Kevin is spastic, Cam, just like you," Kevin told his partner.
"Shut up, man," Cam said. "Don't even joke about that."
Dan and Mark sat down on the bed and looked at the baby admiringly.
"Y'know, this 'Little Kevin' shit is going to get old real fast," Mark
suggested. "Why don't you call him 'KC' for 'Kevin Cameron?"
"'Casey,'" Kevin mouthed. "I like that, Mark! You're a genius. Well, sort of. Cam, whaddaya think?"
"I like it!" Cam said from the depths of his closet. "Let's do
it." He emerged from the closet carrying hangers with his kilt,
dress shirt and sash on them.
The dreaded prom with Teri McKee as his date that coming Friday night was closing in fast, and it was time recheck his clothes.
© 2006 Don Hanratty.
My thanks to Dan for his expert editing and proofing.