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Note: Thanks to Tim and Rock for feedback on the draft chapters. I owe a special thanks to Robb for doing the final proofreading and catching all those silly little errors I missed.
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There was deep concern in Derek's voice as he talked with Russ.
I tried to concentrate on Derek's part of the conversation, but we got wedged in between three big semis on the highway. I had to shift my concentration to my driving to keep from being crushed under the wheels of the truck in front of us.
By the time I managed to get us out of that mess without being killed, Derek was closing up my cell phone.
"We've got to turn around and go to Charlotte. Russ is in Carolinas Medical Center, and he needs us to pick him up."
"What happened? Is he okay?"
"He said he's been beaten up. He's okay...I guess...but he can't drive his car, and the doctors won't release him from the hospital unless there's someone to stay with him."
"Did he say how it happened?"
"No, maybe he'll tell us when we pick him up. I told him we'd be there in about half an hour. Do you know where the hospital is?"
"Nope. Do you?"
"Not a clue. Find an exit so we can turn around. There's bound to be some signs once we get into Charlotte."
There were signs, but we still got lost. It was almost an hour before we found the hospital and a place to park.
We got Russ's room number from a friendly, blue haired old lady with way too much perfume at the front desk. Then we promptly got lost again in the confusing labyrinth of corridors and hallways typical of any hospital.
When we finally arrived at Russ's room, there was another guy in the room with him. We didn't pay much attention to him at first because we were so stunned at Russ's appearance. He had two black eyes, a swollen lip, a bandage on his right cheek, and a big bruise on the left side of his jaw. His right arm was in a sling, and there was a soft cast boot on his right calf and ankle.
He motioned with his left hand. "I'm sorry about all this, guys, but thanks for coming. I didn't know anyone else I could call."
The other guy got up out of the chair and extended his hand to us.
"Hello, I'm Peter Long. Russ has told me a lot about you guys. I'm glad he has friends like you."
I shook Peter's hand. He was older than us...maybe in his early thirties, with stylish medium brown hair, green eyes, a fashion model's angular face, and what looked like a runner's body under his obviously expensive clothes. His shoes looked like they were probably worth more than my car.
I passed Peter off to Derek and went over to Russ.
"What happened, Russ?"
After shaking hands, Derek moved to stand beside me. I could sense the presence of Peter behind us.
"I took a little beating."
"That's pretty obvious. Want to be a little more specific?"
"Okay, you guys know the score anyway. I had an appointment with a new client. We always check out the clients, and this guy looked legit so Peter...Peter's our...ah...manager...gave me the okay. So, I drove down, parked my car at the airport, like we always do, and grabbed a cab for the address I'd been given. We always use our cell phones to check in with Peter when we're about to meet a client, then he knows when, based on what the client has paid, just how long before he should expect another call from us."
Russ paused and tried to reach for the glass of water beside the hospital bed. Derek grabbed it and held the straw up to his lips while he drank.
"Like I said, we've had these standard safety measures in place since we started meeting clients in this area. I called Peter as I was getting out of the cab. I knocked on the front door of the house, and the door opened. The guy had a gun. He made me come into the house, then he had me do a strip for him while he held the gun on me. After I got all my clothes off, the guy raped me and then started beating me with the gun when he was finished. I tried to protect my head, but the guy had me down on the floor and was kicking me. That's the last I remember until I woke up in the emergency room."
Peter cleared his throat. "We always run the credit cards of our clients. This card checked out at first, but about half an hour after Russ met this bastard, I got a call from the credit card company. The owner of the card had just reported it stolen, and the company said we were the last place the card had been used. I knew there had to be a problem, so I hopped in the car and went over to the address. When I got there, the front door was open. I found Russ naked and unconscious on the living room floor."
As Peter was telling the story, I reached down and held on to Russ's free hand.
"Did you call the cops?"
"Not right away. I called 911 first and got an ambulance. The EMT's called the cops. They came and talked to Russ last night."
Russ let go of my hand, "The two cops who came and talked to me didn't seem too interested in doing anything. One guy kept yawning. They didn't even ask for a description of the guy.
"I just want to get out of this hospital, but the doctors won't let me leave unless there's someone who can stay with me for the next couple of days. I've got a concussion, and I've got to learn how to manage with my arm and leg."
"Why didn't the cops seem too interested?"
"Derek," Peter said, "think about it. A call boy gets beaten up. Most cops would just think Russ got what he deserved." He held up his hand to stop Derek's protest. "I know that's not the way it should be, but that's the way it is. Right now, the important thing is getting Russ back home. If you guys can help take care of him, then he can leave. If not, then he's going to have to stay here another couple of days before they'll release him."
"Of course, we'll take care of him. He's our friend."
It took almost three hours to get Russ released from the hospital. Russ was anxious, but he had to cool his heels. Peter had bought a set of clothes. Everything Russ had been wearing before the attack was now `evidence.' When the nurse came with the release papers, it took a while for Russ to sign all the forms. He was right-handed, and it was his right arm in the sling.
The first stop after his release was to retrieve Russ's BMW from the airport parking garage. Russ had parked in the hourly parking garage. His car had been there almost two days. It was expensive, and Derek had to put it on his charge card because Russ's wallet and credit cards had been taken. Fortunately, the guy hadn't taken the car keys.
Russ stretched out in the back seat of my Impala for the drive up to Adams. Derek followed us in Russ's car.
He slept most of the way. We did have a few snatches of conversation.
One time, he said, "I think I may be in trouble."
"You mean with the cops?"
"No, not them, I don't think they really care too much about some queer getting himself beaten up. When the guy raped me, I don't think he used a condom."
"Jeez, I'm sorry, Russ. What will you do?"
"Keep getting tested until I either come up positive or until I know I'm safe."
He went back to sleep.
Another time, he said, "I'm going to have to retire from the business."
"You mean stop seeing clients?"
"Yeah, no one wants a rent boy who might have HIV. Besides, I was going to retire next year anyway. If I'm careful with my money, I think I can make it to graduation."
"Derek's father bought a house. We'll be renting out a couple of the rooms. Do you want to live with us?"
"I...I really appreciate that, Brett. I've been living by myself for the last four years, so I don't know if I can deal with roommates again, but it sure would help the finances. Are you sure you want me as a roommate?"
"Now, I'm pissed off. I wouldn't have asked, if we didn't want you. Derek and I have already talked about potential roommates, and your name was on the list."
Once we were back in Adams, we helped Russ get out of his clothes and into his bed. His attacker really worked him over; there were bruises all over his body. And they were starting to become tender. Poor Russ was going to be in for a rough couple of days before those bruises started to heal.
We decided that Derek would stay with Russ that night. Russ was in a one bedroom apartment. There was only the one bed and the couch in the living room. Russ had the bed, and the couch wouldn't fit both of us.
While Derek went to the dorm to gather the things he'd need for the night, I heated up some soup for dinner.
We'd just about finished the soup when Derek came back with Radu in tow. I expected Derek to be carrying a bag with his books and a change of clothes. He wasn't. Radu was the one with the bag.
I gave them a look.
Derek just shrugged his shoulders. "Radu pointed out that you and I have strength training in the morning, so he's going to stay with Russ tonight. Mitchell's going to come over after strength training and stay for the rest of the morning because he doesn't have any class until the afternoon, then Jordan will come over in the afternoon and stay through the next day. He said that all he had to do was to complete a couple of projects for his art classes. Oh, and I called Josh Locklear and asked him to come over tomorrow to take a look at Russ to see if there's something we could do that would help him get on his feet faster."
Russ protested, "Guys, I can't expect you to do all this."
Derek stepped up to the bedside, leaned in toward Russ, and said, "I know you don't expect this, Russ, but this is what friends do for each other. We're doing this because we're your friends."
Russ's eyed teared up.
Derek patted Russ on his good shoulder. "Make us a list of all your classes and the professors. Brett and I will take care of telling them that you're going to be out for a week or so."
"Thanks. Finals are only two weeks away. I need to get the notes from each class."
"Okay, do you know some people in each class that would let us copy their notes?"
"Let me think about that. I don't know a lot the people in the class."
"Yeah, you're a pretty antisocial bastard."
Russ actually cracked a smile. "Most of the time."
After going over all the directions for Russ's pain medications with Radu, Derek and I went back to the dorm. We climbed into bed with intentions of making up for the loving time we'd lost while staying at Grandpa Jackson's apartment in Atlanta. Like I said, we had intentions of making up for lost time, but both of us were pretty drained from the day. We ended up just snuggling with one another. That was still a nice way to end what had turned into a crappy day.
The next day, we took some Subway sandwiches over to Russ's place for dinner. Radu, Mitchell, and Jordan were there as well. While we ate, we worked out a schedule for the week. We were determined that someone would be with Russ as much as possible until he was able to get around comfortably on his own power. He could hobble around the apartment on the boot cast, but he wasn't capable of any extended walking because he couldn't effectively use a cane or a crutch since his right arm and shoulder were also messed up.
After getting the `Russ Sitting' schedule worked out, we talked about living arrangements for the next year. These were the guys that Derek and I wanted to share the house with. Everyone agreed. Derek and I would have the master bedroom. Radu and Russ would have the two other upstairs bedrooms, and Mitchell and Jordan would share the former family room that had been converted into a bedroom in the lower level of the house.
Russ wanted to take a shower. We checked out his bathroom and quickly nixed that idea. The bath tub wasn't all that big, and we were afraid that Russ would fall trying to maneuver in the small space. Allowing him to take a bath by himself was also out of the question because he wouldn't be able to lift himself in and out of the tub with his bad shoulder.
We settled on having Mitchell and me help him into the tub. I stayed to help him wash, then Mitchell and I got him safely out of the tub and back to his bed.
I'd seen Russ naked a couple of times before, but that was in the gym. This was the first time I had a chance to really look at his body. Even with the bruising, his body was spectacular. He was cut without being muscular or beefy. He had a little bit of hair around each nipple and a treasure trail leading from his navel down to his thick and carefully trimmed pubic bush. He was circumcised. His soft dick was four or five inches long. His scrotum was smooth (I suspected it was shaved), and his balls moved around in the loose skin.
I helped him wash his hair and ran the washcloth over the parts of his body that he couldn't reach. By the time the bath was finished, I was semi hard. Hey, Derek's my man, but I can still appreciate a great body!
By the start of the next week, Russ was able to go back to his classes. The bruises had mostly faded, and he could use a crutch for short distances. However, his shoulder was still not completely healed, so walking from one building to another for class was difficult. One of us made sure to help him get from place to place on campus. Russ found it was easier on his arm and shoulder to support himself by holding on to someone's left shoulder. That caused less stress and pain than trying to support his weight using the crutch.
Spring football practice and strength training stopped the week before exams. Everyone on campus hunkered down to study for finals.
When final exams started, Russ's shoulder had healed to the point that he was able to get around campus without our help.
Two days into finals, Derek and I were studying in our room. We were reclining together on the bed. I was booking for my chemistry class, and Derek was looking over his political science notes while absent mindedly running his fingers up and down my upper arm. I didn't mind, but it was distracting me from trying to understand the last set of lecture notes.
His cell phone rang. He looked at the display.
"It's my mother."
I got up from the bed. "I'll go over to Jordan and Mitchell's room for a few minutes."
I blew him a kiss as I walked to the door. He grinned and winked at me as he said, "Hi, Mom. What's going on?"
Jordan and Mitchell were ready to take a break from their studies. We talked for a good half hour before Derek appeared in the doorway.
"You'll never guess what mom wanted to talk about."
I suspected that she wanted to talk about me. She still wasn't happy with the idea that her son was gay. I felt that she blamed me for `turning' Derek. That was one of the reasons I always left the room when she called.
"Let me guess."
"Nope, because you'll never guess it. She wants to have lunch with us."
"You're kidding. I thought she wasn't talking to me."
"Well, she's decided to talk...and she wants to talk with both of us."
"When does she plan to do this? When your folks come back down to Indian Crossing this summer?"
"No, she wants to do it earlier than that. How's tomorrow?"
"Yup, she's flying into Charlotte in the morning and then driving up here."
"Whoa, this is serious stuff. What's she want to talk about?"
"We'll find out tomorrow."
(To be continued)
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Some of the characters who play parts in this story were previously introduced in "When Love Comes" (last posted in the College section on Sept. 6, 2001), "Love of a Lifetime" (last posted in the College section on May 19, 2003), "Finding Family" (last posted in the College section on June 5, 2008), or "Construction Job" (last posted in the College section on July 24, 2008). While not necessary, readers may find it useful to read the earlier stories posted on this site. All of the Adams State/Carterville stories listed above as well as my other stories are also posted at www.crvboy.com.
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