Mike walked through the new construction on his and Matt's condo, now almost completed. It pleased him.
The Chicago architect who had been recommended by management at Berman Worldwide Engineering, where his father had once held sway, had proven to be a good choice. The workmanship was excellent, the pace in completing the job had been right on target, and above all, his wishes with respect to the final product had been scrupulously followed. He allowed himself a smile, one of the few that had crossed his face since Matt and the twins had returned to school a month ago.
Where before there had been two penthouse suites on the top floor, now there was one. The former hallway in the middle of the building had been turned into a foyer, yet to be furnished. The windows at the lake end of the former common hall were now floor to ceiling, to be covered with heavy draperies which could be closed, if so desired, by flicking an electric switch.
Where before there had been three elevators opening on to the floor, there was now one, dedicated only to the penthouse floor. One could achieve access to the penthouse elevator from the downstairs entry hall only if you had an elevator card to swipe, or if you were buzzed up from one of the phones in the condo, or if the doorman pushed the right button at his station. Otherwise the elevator wouldn't open to admit you.
A doorway in the foyer hid stairs leading to the roof, where a new private pool awaited only water to make it operational. There was a recessed hot tub to one side. Sliding glass walls would enclose the pool for winter use.
Three bedrooms, each with its own bath, had also been added to the main suite, as well a large playroom with an adjoining bathroom for the twins and an exercise room for Matt and Mike. The exercise room included a sauna and another hot tub.
The remodeling had also produced a totally separate, one bedroom apartment, complete with kitchen, small dining area, bathroom and nice size living room. It had its own entrance off the foyer. This was for a live-in couple that he and Matt were contemplating hiring for housekeeping, light cooking, and to help them with the kids.
Another plus, only to be fully appreciated by those who live in an urban area, was that the residents of the penthouse were now entitled to six parking places in the basement garage.
Mike gave a nod of approval before he went back into the den, deep in thought, and sprawled on the big leather couch.
Despite the fact that Mike had been busy with final exams during the last month since Matt and the boys had taken off for the airport to go back to school, time had dragged for him. Mike and Matt had talked every day, as Mike had with Jeff every night at the appointed hour, but Mike missed his family. Wrapping things up at school for the year had made the last month bearable for Mike, but barely so.
Several weeks ago Mike had talked with the Mayor of Chicago about the possibility of Jeff's lifeguarding again this summer for the Park District, and after chatting about family for a bit, the Mayor said for Jeff to expect a call from the District telling him when to report for a physical.
Jeff and Martha were due to arrive in two days in Jeff's truck, on Saturday morning, with Mom and Dad flying in on Saturday night. Matt and the twins, also driving, were supposed to come in sometime on Sunday. Matt had told Mike on the phone that closing down his apartment--deciding what to keep and what to discard--had taken a lot out of him, especially since some of the items requiring a decision had been very special to Sarah. He told Mike that the whole process of moving had evoked some tough emotions to deal with, but at the same time helped bring additional closure to his former life with his wife.
Matt also told Mike that although the kids had been glad to see familiar faces back at school, they kept asking for "Unk Mike." Matt had used a large calendar to show them, as together they crossed off days one by one, how soon they'd be back with their uncle in Chicago. Mike loved the boys dearly, and was deeply touched to know that the feelings were reciprocated.
Two days later, as expected, Jeff and Martha arrived in Chicago at the apartment about noon. Mike was thrilled to hear Martha's voice on the phone when he buzzed them upstairs, and met he met them at the elevator with open arms, hugging them tightly and kissing them. He was surprised when his eyes momentarily filled with tears, which he tried to hide from his brother and sister.
Jeff was more handsome than ever, bright eyed and bushy tailed, and Martha was clearly a knockout in the looks department, her dark beauty looking so much like their mother that Mike's breath caught in his throat for a minute. She was wearing a cute sun dress, and Jeff was clad in khaki cargo shorts and a knit shirt, open at the neck, that showed off his great physique, with a U Penn baseball cap perched on his head.
Breakers barked and danced around, greeting the guests in his own way.
"Jeez, you guys look great! I'm so glad to see ya!" Mike said.
"Dude among dudes," Jeff responded. "Lookin' good, my man!"
"Mike, I've missed you," Martha said simply, standing on her tiptoes to kiss Mike a second time.
He got them each settled in one of the new bedrooms, and then he and Jeff went down to the lobby to borrow the doorman's cart for the luggage. Jeff's truck, parked in front of the building, was all washed and shined up, still in cherry condition. After the cart was loaded with luggage, Mike turned it over to the doorman to take upstairs and he rode shotgun while Jeff pulled the truck into the underground garage.
They rode the elevator back upstairs, discussing school and the strain of getting through finals.
The three of them sat talking about family things for awhile, and then Mike finally alluded to the invisible elephant sitting in the room with them.
"Jeff, you clean?"
Mike and Martha looked at their brother impassively.
"Yep," Jeff averred, looking Mike right in the eye.
"That's good," Mike said. "I've never known you to lie to me, ever. If you're clean, there's no way you'd lie to me now. If you're dirty, you understand there's no way you wouldn't lie to me."
"I'm not lying, Mike," Jeff said patiently.
" 'K," Mike said. "Now, don't be mad at me, but I'm gonna arrange for one of my colleagues at school to give you a complete physical, just so we get off on the right foot for the summer."
"I'm gonna get a physical from the Park District before I go to work, so why do you want another one?" Jeff asked.
"Those Park District exams are pretty perfunctory, to be honest," Mike responded. "They might not see the signs of what I'm concerned about."
"Don't play me, bro," Mike said. "Specifically, I'm looking for tracks."
"Aw, shit!" Jeff spat out.
"I love ya, Jeff, but you're definitely on probation with me until I say you're not. Do we understand each other?" Mike asked.
"Yeah," Jeff said sullenly, looking at the floor.
Martha sat quietly, a small smile of approval on her lips that she made sure Jeff didn't see.
"Well," Jeff said, "can't you do the physical yourself? I rather have you do it than go to a stranger."
"Yeah. But I wasn't sure you would be comfortable with that, to be honest," Mike said.
"You've seen everything I got many times, so let's do this before Mom and Dad and Matt get here. I don't want them dumping on me, too."
" 'K, but I'm not dumping on you, dude. If you've been a good boy, this summer is gonna be pure pleasure for ya. Really. I guarantee it."
"All right, then. Where do ya wanna do this?"
"Go on back to my bedroom. Put on my robe after you undress, and I'll get my stuff."
Jeff got up without a word and headed toward Mike's bedroom. Mike looked at Martha, who smiled back at him.
"As far as you know, he's been clean?" Mike asked quietly.
"Yeah, I think he's been straight since the big blowup," Martha said. "But I'm glad you're doing this, Mike, if for no other reason than Jeff needs to know who's calling the shots while he's here. You know how headstrong he can be."
"Yeppers," Mike laughed. "Family trait. Listen, thanks again for letting me know what was going on. You probably saved his life. I just hope he appreciates it some day. Does he think you ratted him out?"
"No, not really. And I think he knows Matt and I, especially Matt, won't take any crap on this particular topic."
Mike slid over on the couch and put his arms around his sister.
"You done good, sis," and he kissed her cheek. "When I'm finished with Jeff, why don't we go to the grocery store so we can fix a good supper for Mom and Dad."
" 'K. I'm gonna go unpack so everything won't get wrinkled," Martha said.
They stood up and had another good, long hug.
When Mike walked into his bedroom, Jeff was sitting on the bed in Mike's bathrobe, still wearing his Nikes and sweat socks. The rest of his clothes were sitting on the bed.
"Lose the shoes and socks," Mike ordered.
Jeff scowled, but did as he was told.
Mike pressed a stethoscope to Jeff's chest, listening intently to his heartbeat. Switching the instrument to Jeff's back, he had him breathe deeply for him. Then, after sliding up the sleeve of the robe, he put on a blood pressure cuff on Jeff's arm, pumped it up, and gradually released the pressure, watching the gauge and listening for the blood to resume pumping. Then he checked Jeff's arm and leg reflexes with a small rubber mallet.
Donning rubber gloves, Mike took a tongue depressor and cradling Jeff's chin, shining a light in Jeff's mouth to examine his throat and tongue, followed by his eyes. He had him stretch his arms out, and then with eyes closed, touch his nose. Then, using an otoscope, he checked his ears.
"Stand up," Mike said. "I'm going to check your groin on both sides for a hernia." Pulling back the robe after Jeff stood, he gently slipped his hand in turn up each of his brother's thighs next to his large ball sack, and had him turn his head and cough. Jeff's big, cut dick, at least 6½ inches soft with a large head, lay quietly in repose on his massive, low-hanging testicles. He'd obviously been blessed in the cock and balls department.
"All the basics are lookin' good, Jeff. Now I need to check your skin. Take off the robe and lie down on the bed on your back, please," Mike instructed. Jeff did.
Despite his commitment to demean himself professionally, Mike couldn't help noting that he was looking down at one of the most perfect male specimens he had ever seen. From the top of Jeff's head and the chiseled features of his face to the tip of his toes, every plane and contour of this young man's body was perfect. He was was absolutely ripped. Jeff's torso tapered in a V from broad shoulders to a 31 inch waist. He was almost hairless except for his head, armpits, and a light treasure trail leading to abundant pubes, although his legs were dusted with hair, unlike Matt's. Big hands, long, square fingers, husky, muscled legs and huge feet completed the picture.
Swallowing hard and refocusing on the task, Mike began to examine every square inch of skin on the front of Jeff's body, starting first with his feet between the toes and moving up. When he had completed the front side, he had Jeff turn over and did his backside, looking particularly behind the knees for puncture marks. His butt, Mike noticed, was in perfect proportion to the rest of his body.
"Jeff, I don't know how you baseball players end up with such good physiques. You don't do anything but stand around during a game."
When he was finished with the skin exam, Mike breathed a sigh of relief. No puncture marks. Like Matt's, Jeff's skin was blemish free and glowing.
" 'K, bud, get dressed."
"Well?" Jeff demanded as he stepped into his jockeys and started putting on the rest of his clothes.
"You're clean, dude. You don't know how happy that makes me!" Mike said, smiling. "You're in excellent health. But I do see one spot on your back I want to have a dermatologist look at. You're pretty young to have to worry about a melanoma, but you were out in the sun an awful lot last summer, so let's just play it safe."
" 'K. Is this shit over for good now?" Jeff asked.
"Well, no. I want you to talk to someone about why you used H in the first place."
"I told you why, Mike."
"I know. This is for you, man, really. I think you need to find out why you've been attracted to substances. And if there's any unfinished business with the family, including me, somewhere in the mix, this will put it on the table. 'K?"
Jeff sighed deeply as he finished tying his shoes.
"Do this for me, Jeff, and really cooperate, and I promise not to put any other demands on you this summer except to stay clean and come to church with us," Mike said. "I love ya bigtime, bro, and I owe you my life. I haven't forgotten what you did for me, and I'm just trying to do the best I can for you."
"I know," Jeff admitted, standing and pulling Mike into a hug. Mike sensed that Jeff was shedding a big load of resentment in offering that hug, and that made him happy.
"We're cool, then?" Mike asked.
"More than cool," Jeff said, and he put his arm across Mike's shoulders as they walked back to the den.
"Will he live?" Martha asked, as she looked up from the couch.
"Oh, yeah, Mart, he'll live to cause a lot of trouble yet," Mike said, grinning. He almost added that Jeff was too cute to die anytime soon, but he refrained.
"Jeff, give me five minutes to show you some pictures I got from school recently, then we're totally done," Mike continued, talking fast, not waiting for Jeff to assent. "Martha, you should look at these, too. These are copies of some scans--MRI's, CAT's, and SPECT's--that show the effect of substance abuse on the dopamine and serotonin receptors of the brain. Those are the parts of the brain that keep us feeling good emotionally and give us a sense of well-being."
"What's a SPECT?" Martha asked.
"'Single Photon Emission Computerized Tomography,'" Mike said. "Anyway, the brain mostly looks smooth and white when it's healthy, as in these shots here. Now look at the brain in these other shots when there's been substantial abuse of alcohol, caffeine, marijuana, cocaine, crack, heroin or amphetamines. The big, dark holes show you where the dopamine and serotonin receptors have been almost completely destroyed. That's why an addict has to keep using more and more of a substance over time to get the same effect. The receptors can recover somewhat over a long period after abuse stops, but there's never a complete recovery. The brain mass of abusers physically shrinks in size, too, particularly among alcoholics."
Jeff and Martha looked at the pictures wordlessly as they passed them back and forth.
"Jeff, I know you think Matt is totally nuts on the subject of substance abuse, but the fact is, for whatever reason, he lurched uncontrollably into the truth," Mike said. "He's been absolutely right all along from a physiological standpoint. Substance abuse is a brain disease."
Jeff sat back on the couch, lips pressed together, saying nothing.
"I'm not trying to scare you straight, guys, because I know that doesn't work," Mike said, putting the pictures back in a pile. "Actually, sometimes knowing too many facts seems to cause the very behaviors that professionals are trying to prevent. Of course, that won't be true in your case, Jeff." Mike locked eyes with his brother. "But I thought you should see these anyway."
"Jeez, now I need a beer," Jeff said finally, looking at Mike slyly out of the corner of his eye.
The three of them broke up.
"All right, guys," Mike said, "let's saddle up and go buy some food, just in case Mom and Dad don't get fed on the plane tonight. And you know they won't."
They all stood up.
"Thanks for caring so much, Mike," Martha said.
Jeff remained quiet and looked thoughtful.
"No problem," Mike said said, grabbing his wallet and keys, and they started to leave. Breakers watched them go with sad eyes. At the last minute, Mike relented, held the elevator door open, and called for him to come with them. The dog was ecstatic. He loved car rides.
* * *
Mike, Jeff and Martha were sitting in the den that evening talking and listening to music when the telephone rang. Their mom and dad were downstairs, and Mike buzzed them up. He let Martha and Jeff greet them first, and was totally unprepared for what happened next.
As he put his arms around his parents, much to his embarrassment, and without warning, he burst into tears. There was no hiding it this time.
"I'm sorry..." he choked out. "I don't know what's the matter with me. I'm just so glad to see you..."
"My Mike," Jane Broman said, kissing him. "My sweet Mike. We've missed you so much, sweetheart."
Justice Broman cleared his throat but said nothing, kissing Mike's cheek, and holding him tight. Ashamed of his own display of emotion, Mike avoided looking at Jeff and Martha, who were staring at him with concern.
Mike extricated himself from the group hug, pulled out his handkerchief, and dried his face, pulling himself together.
"You both look wonderful! How was your flight?" he asked.
"It was good, son," Justice Broman said in his deep voice. "We had a little stackup over Chicago, but that's par for the course these days."
"Well, it's really good to have you here," Mike said. "I'm grateful you came, especially since I know how much you both miss being home together. Dad, with your schedule, I know you don't get back there nearly enough."
"Don't worry about that, Mike," the judge said. "It's the people that make a place what it is."
"Home for us is where you kids are, Mister, and don't you forget it!" Jane Broman said with certainty, wiping an errant tear from Mike's cheek with her thumb.
"Well, let's get you settled. Let me get your bags and show you your room, and then we'll take the twenty-five cent tour. You won't recognize the place now, Mom."
Mike and Jeff grabbed their bags, and away they all traipsed off to one of the new bedrooms, now furnished with beautiful antique dressers and tables, several overstuffed chairs, an entertainment center, and a huge king size bed.
"Did you eat yet?" Mike asked after they got them situated.
"Peanuts on the plane," Justice Broman complained. "And they were stale."
"How does a steak, baked potato and salad sound?" Mike asked.
"Perfect," the judge said. "Mom?"
"It sounds wonderful, Mike," Jane Broman said. "Do you need some help?"
"Nope. Everything's under control. Jeff and Martha, would you guys mind getting a glass of wine for Mom and a drink for Dad, and then showing them the rest of the place? If you'd like a drink, too, help yourselves. I'll be in the kitchen."
"Sure," Jeff assented, a little surprised at Mike's trust level in offering him a drink after their previous conversation that day about substances. Brother Mike was way full of surprises, he thought to himself. Justice Broman looked at Mike quizzically, but said nothing.
Mike fired up the gas grill out on the balcony, and busied himself in the kitchen. Before long they were all at the dining room table and ready to eat. Mike put his dad at the head of the table with Mom to his right, and they joined hands while Justice Broman returned thanks for the food and for family. They all ate as if there were no tomorrow, and it was good. Breakers had already become especially attached to Martha, and he lay at her feet gazing at her with his big brown eyes, wanting a piece of steak. When nobody was looking, she snuck him a small piece.
While they all ate, their mom and dad questioned Mike, Jeff and Martha about school and how their finals had gone. They all felt they had done well, and Martha told them she was sticking with the science courses that would prepare her for veterinary school. Everyone applauded her decision.
"Michael, are you sure you want to be a doc?" his dad asked him as they finished eating. "You'd make a great chef! This was a good meal!"
"Thanks. But we're not done yet," Mike said. "There's cheesecake with strawberry topping for those who want some."
"Me, me, me," Jeff said plaintively, raising his hand as the family laughed.
"My growing boy," Jane Broman said, eying Jeff with a smile. "You're so handsome, Jeff. You look just like your dad did at your age."
"Are we looking at the same person?" Martha asked, acting incredulous.
"Shut up, Martha," Jeff said, embarrassed.
" 'K, bro, come help me," Mike said to Jeff, rescuing him and heading for the kitchen.
Mike got the cheesecake out of the refrigerator along with a bowl of strawberries and juice, and set about cutting the cheesecake as Jeff held the plates. Jeff added the sauce.
"Mike, this is so great," Jeff said as they worked. "Thanks."
"What? The cheesecake?"
"No, you dweeb! Getting us all together like this. I'm loving it."
"Me, too, dude. Me, too."
Finishing up in the kitchen, they carried the plates into the dining room, and the meal concluded on a good note.
Then Mike led them into the living room, and opened the drapes on the panorama of Lake Michigan. Lights from the boats bobbed far below, the water bathed in light from an almost-full moon. Jeff brought his dad a cognac and his mother some Kahlua. While the others pulled chairs to the huge window, Martha and Mike went to clear the table and load the dishwasher.
Later they sat in the den, the elder Bromans on the couch and kids in chairs pulled around the coffee table, and talked for several hours. Mike drew out his mom and dad especially about their work and what they had been doing for fun. It was obvious that they all enjoyed one another's company thoroughly.
About 10 p.m., Jeff and Martha excused themselves and headed to bed after kissing their parents goodnight. Mike stayed.
"Jeff looks good," Justice Broman said to Mike after Jeff and Martha had gone. "Is he?"
"I think so," Mike said. "I gave him a physical this afternoon, and I really looked hard for track marks or any other signs of abuse. There's nothing to indicate he's using, and he's in great shape. I'm feeling optimistic."
Jane Broman let out a sigh of relief.
"Good call on tactics, then, Mike," his dad said, smiling. "You handled everything well, and we owe you a lot. Thank you."
"I can't believe you're thanking me. I wouldn't have a life at all if it weren't for this family, so please don't thank me. You know how I feel about Jeff and all of you. I'm the one who's grateful."
"You're heart of our heart, Michael. We love you," Jane Broman said softly.
Mike felt peace and contentment, and he smiled from ear to ear. Only Matt and the boys were needed to complete the picture.
* * *
They all went to the 11:00 a.m. mass at St. Stephen's as a family the next morning, and then went back to the condo for brunch.
Mike was starting to pace from one side of the den to the other by the time Matt and the twins arrived about 2 o'clock that afternoon. When the phone rang, it wasn't the voice he'd expected.
"Unk Mike?" Not one, but two tiny little voices trilled in his ear.
"I'll be right down," Mike said into the phone, and took off running for the elevator, much to the amusement of the rest of the family, who followed him into the foyer to await the new arrivals.
When the elevator door opened on the main floor, there stood a smiling, handsome Matt with a twin holding on to each hand. Mike scooped up the boys and covered their little blond heads with kisses as they laughed and squirmed. He put them down as they stepped on the elevator, and grabbed Matt tightly and wanted to drown himself in those big, brown eyes. Then they planted their lips together in a kiss that lasted all the way up to the penthouse floor, holding each other tightly.
"It took ya long enough to get here!" Mike complained as they disengaged and the elevator door opened.
"You're lookin' so-o-o good to me, dude!" Matt said to him, and then he and the twins were overwhelmed by the onslaught of wall-to-wall family. They all gravitated to the den with everyone talking at once. The twins drew most of the attention, and Matt and Mike were glad, because they had eyes for no one but one another. Jane Broman caught them looking at each other, and smiled to herself. Matt and Mike were positively glowing.
That night after Grandma and Grandpa bathed the twins and put them to bed, Matt and Mike kissed the boys goodnight and went to their own bedroom. They stripped and climbed into bed, lying on their sides facing each other.
"I want you so bad," Matt said after a few minutes of silence, "but even without sex, just getting to look at you beside me in this bed and hold you--well, it thrills the hell out of me, Mike. You're beautiful. I love you so much, and I've missed you every minute of every day we've been apart." He reached over and caressed Mike's hair back off his forehead.
Mike said nothing at first, but moved his head closer to smell Matt's hair and touch his face.
"I love you, too," Mike said, and then added, totally out of left field, "You have your own special smell, y'know. So darned wholesome. Sort of the human equivalent of fresh baked bread. It was the first thing I fell in love with when we started rooming together back at school, the smell of you. Well, that and your beautiful bod, of course. But when I smell your body, it takes me back in an instant to when I was trying so hard not to fall in love with you. Thank goodness that was a lost cause."
They regarded each other again in silence, knowing without reaching down that they were each hard as a rock.
"I'm so horny I know I'm gonna explode the second we touch each other," Mike said, "just like the last time we were separated. So...69 with me again. I want to taste your cum in my mouth. Just hold my dick in your mouth quietly to make it last as long as possible, and I'll do the same, cause I know I'm ready to shoot."
" 'K," Matt said, and they positioned themselves, each taking the other's rigid cock in his mouth. Matt felt Mike's soft breath on his balls, and tasted his sweet pre-cum. The pressure began building with next to no stimulation, and soon Matt began to ejaculate copiously as Mike simultaneously unloaded thick ropes of cum into his partner's mouth. They both drank down the abundant spunk, and after licking one another clean, Matt re-situated himself at the head of the bed. They kissed deeply, clinging together and tasting the other's unique essence.
"Once again, I give us an 'F' on foreplay, but 'A' for satisfaction," Matt chuckled as they spiraled down from their high.
Mike smiled and nestled his head into the crook of Matt's neck. They were almost instantly asleep, not awakening until morning.
The next few days were like heaven for both of them, having the people that they cared most about in all the world around them. Each of them went out of his way to set aside some quality time with their parents and siblings. Mike went shopping with his mom and Martha to buy more furnishings for the condo, and Matt and his dad went over to the Northwestern School of Law, where Matt had indeed been accepted as a transfer student for his final year. Justice Broman knew many of the professors there, and renewed old friendships over lunch. The Dean complimented Matt on his academic record, and told him how pleased they were to have him complete his J.D. degree with them. Mike took his mom and dad and Jeff down to the medical school, and showed them around, and introduced them to the Dean and to his faculty adviser. Both physicians praised Mike to the skies.
The whole family went over to the Hospice to visit the Sisters, who were happy to see everyone again, and heaped attention on the twins. Sister Angeline took them on a refresher tour and showed them all the improvements that the Broman endowments had permitted. Hospice was in much better financial shape than ever before. Matt and Mike got permission to spend a few minutes visiting with a few residents pointed out by Sister Catherine as those who never had visitors, and they tried to brighten their day a bit. Matt wondered to himself whether he would do better any better now in working with the dying than he did when he was working there before. He wasn't sure.
At home, naturally, the twins were the apples of their grandparents' eye, and were lavished with attention every waking moment. Grandma and Grandpa wanted to baby-sit without respite. That being the case, Jeff and Martha joined Matt and Mike and Breakers on their beach run on Monday and Tuesday, Martha holding her own very nicely with her brothers.
Jeff reported to the Park District for his physical on Tuesday afternoon, and passed with no problem. Justice Broman telephoned the mayor to thank him for his intervention in helping Jeff get the lifeguard job again, and they talked for a long time.
Tuesday night, Matt and Mike began planning their impending partnership ceremony in Vermont for August, when the Supreme Court would be on vacation and their dad's schedule had some flexibility. Only the precise dates would have to be firmed up, and the guys wanted the whole family to be present, if possible. Mike had determined that their best chance of a followup church ceremony was by the Metropolitan Church pastor in Chicago when they returned from Vermont. Every family member said he wanted to be at both ceremonies, and just to let them know the dates. This pleased Matt and Mike no end.
They also talked about Matt's anticipated trip to Hartford to see his former in-laws and inform them about his plans to raise the twins in a gay partnership. Matt dreaded the thought of going, and restated his premonition that Governor Bradford was not going to take the news well. Mike thought he, Mike, should fly with the twins to the Bromans' house while Matt went to Hartford, which would, of course, give Grandma and Grandpa some more time with their grandsons, but then he remembered that such a plan would leave Jeff alone in Chicago, and that wouldn't be a good thing. Everybody chimed in and settled on dates in August as being the best to kill all the birds with one stone, since the guys would be going East anyway to be formally partnered, and the judge would be on vacation. But Matt kept thinking he should go to Hartford sooner. So negotiations continued.
* * *
The elder Bromans flew back to Washington, D.C., on Wednesday morning, but Mike talked long and hard until Martha agreed to stay until the following week rather than going with them as planned. He wanted to use more of Martha's decorating skills to put the final touches on the condo.
Mike put an arm across Matt's shoulders as the limo pulled away for the airport with their parents.
"I never get to see them enough," he told his sister and brothers as they went back inside. "I miss them already."
"Yep yep," Matt told him softly, and kissed his cheek.
Jeff reported to the Park District for refresher training and beach assignment on Thursday, and seemed relaxed and happy to be going to work. His siblings began watching his behavior at home like hawks while trying to portray casual indifference, but Jeff was observant enough to know exactly what they were doing. Instead of being annoyed, though, he accepted it as a sign of their love for him, and ignored the scrutiny.
Matt and Mike and the twins took Martha to the airport and put her on the plane for home the following Wednesday after she had scored some good deals on more furnishings for the condo the previous week. She would again be working for a veterinarian located not far from home for the rest of the summer. Once again, Mike felt a little empty as his sister was whisked off into the sky. But Matt, Jeff and the boys filled the holes in his universe, and he knew he would be seeing the family again soon.
Jeff was two weeks into his job when he and Matt were sitting in the den late one afternoon, playing with the kids before Mike returned from a jaunt to the med school to pick up his mail.
"Uh, Matt, do you think Mike would care if I started dating one of the cute lifeguards I'm working with?" Jeff asked out of the blue.
"Not if he's buff," he said.
"Ha, ha, you're funny! No, really, this girl is so-o-o hot. I'd like to take her out."
"Well, ask him, but I don't think he'll have any problem with that. You're kinda on probation when it comes to the drug thing, but that doesn't mean you hafta be a monk."
" 'K. I will. Thanks."
"You're doin' good, bro. I'm proud of you."
"Thanks, man. It's a little hard for me to say this, but I...I really appreciate everything you guys have done for me. I just want you to know that."
"You say that to Mike, 'K? He's been doin' the drivin' on this one. It'll mean a lot to him."
" 'K." Jeff still had a big smile on his face when Mike came through the door.
"You look cheerful," Mike said to Jeff. "Do I wanna know why?"
"Well, I wanna ask you something," Jeff said.
"Would it be all right with you if I date this girl I'm lifeguarding with?"
Mike grinned and sat down.
"I don't have any problem with that," he said, "provided you make me a few promises."
"Number one, I don't want you drinking and driving. I don't want you drinking over three beers a day at all, and no hard liquor, but I most certainly don't want you drinking and driving."
" 'K," Jeff said.
"Number two, anytime you're gonna be out later than 1 a.m. on a date, I want you to tell me ahead of time or else call me and let me know you're gonna be late. Don't fuck with me on this, or I'll ground you in a nanosecond."
"Well, OK," Jeff said.
"And number three, if this girl or any girl you date uses any substance but alcohol, I want you to stop seeing her pronto. Am I clear on that?"
"And I hope that if you're gonna be having sex, it'll be in a respectful and caring relationship and that you'll use protection."
"Yes, Dad," Jeff grinned.
"Listen, buddy, you treat me with the same respect you give Dad on these issues, and we'll get along just fine," Mike said sternly.
"I will, Mike, I promise."
"Good." Mike pulled a card out of his wallet, and handed it to Jeff. "After work next Tuesday, I want you to go see this guy at the med school. He a dermatologist, and I want him to look at that spot on your back."
"And I'm still looking for a good therapist for you to talk to. I'll let you know on that."
"All right," Jeff said, not looking too pleased.
Mike and Jeff sat in silence looking at each other.
"Thanks, Mike," Jeff said finally. "I appreciate what you're doing."
"That's what brothers are for, dude."
"I know. Listen, I need to grab a shower," Jeff said. "Whaddaya want to do for supper?"
"You shower, and then we can decide."
" 'K." Jeff stood up and headed for his room.
Matt sat looking at Mike, expressionless, after Jeff left the den.
"WHAT!!" Mike demanded.
"You're tough, dude! You even scared me, and I was just eavesdropping."
"It's a dirty job, but somebody hasta do it," Mike laughed. "Don't cross me, or I'll hafta get tough with you, too! Hmmmm. Now that I think about it, that's not a bad idea!"
"Ooooh! Make it sting, will ya?"
Mike moved over to the couch, pushed Matt down, and lay down on top of him, face to face. The twins, always ready for action, ran over and starting climbing all over the two of them. They all laughed as they mock-wrestled with the little guys and let them win.
When Jeff came back from his shower, damp and refreshed, the guys decided to order in pizza and beer. They spent a quiet evening watching a van Damme movie on TV and playing cards and intermittently roughhousing with the twins.
Jeff decided he wanted to bathe the twins that night and put them to bed, and then all of them turned in early.
Mike lay in bed watching Matt has he came out of their bathroom from showering, and toweled off, skin glowing.
"You know, bro," Mike said, thoughtfully eying his partner, "if you had told me, when we first met at school, that a few years down the road I'd be in loco parentis to a hormonally crazed, post pubescent brother who experiments with heavy-duty drugs and has never seen a pair of tits he didn't like, or that I'd be sharing responsibility for raising two little kids, or that I'd be almost married to you, I'd have said you're wack."
"I'm loving it."
Matt slid into bed and turned to his partner, grabbing his own cock and tenting the sheet with it.
"Here, I have something else for ya to love."
Mike started to laugh as he ducked under the covers and went for it.
* * *
Over the next week Matt gave a lot of thought to the visit he needed to make to see his former in-laws in Hartford, and finally decided not to wait until August. He talked it over with with Mike, and they agreed that Matt should take the kids to Washington to visit with their grandparents during the time he went on to Connecticut. Mike would like to have gone with him, but they both knew that Jeff shouldn't be left alone in Chicago right then.
When Matt flew out, it seemed like he had half the nursery with him. He and Mike had talked to the twins a lot about what fun it was going to be to fly again, and they were looking forward to it and prepared to enjoy it fully. Matt looked back at the Chicago skyline as they turned to fly across Lake Michigan, and felt an empty place in the pit of his stomach as the distance between him and Mike grew.
The flight arrived right on time in Washington in the mid-afternoon, and Matt grabbed a limo to the Watergate. The doorman was expecting them, and Jane Broman met them at the apartment door.
"My babies! How did you like the big plane?" she asked the twins after kissing Matt and the boys.
"We were way, way up, Gwamma," Matthew informed her excitedly.
"In the clouds, sometimes. It was fun! We could see things!" Michael chimed in.
The twins continued to talk excitedly about their latest experience as their grandma got them settled in their room. The twins would be sleeping together for the first time in a big double bed with pillows around the circumference to keep them from falling out. Their dad would be right next door in an adjoining room.
The Supreme Court was working long hours to finish up all their decisions for the term so that they could recess in August, and Justice Broman didn't arrive at the apartment until after 8 p.m. He looked tired, and Matt's mom fussed over him and fixed his supper while he changed into casual clothes. After he ate, he went in to see the twins, who were already asleep by the time he walked in the door.
After his dad had his after-dinner drink and was feeling rested, Matt gave his parents the good news about Jeff, that he seemed to be doing well on the beach, and that he seemed to be properly in awe of Mike and was doing everything he was told.
"Good!" Justice Broman said with a laugh. "I'm glad somebody can make that boy toe the mark a little, and Mike seems to have his number. Jeff's a good boy, basically, but at his age he still needs guidance from time to time."
"Well, Mike's been a godsend," Matt said. "If I'd have been the one trying to give Jeff his marching orders, he'd have told me to take a flying leap. But he practically kisses the ground Mike walks on."
"Mike has a way about him," Jane Broman said. "He can be very persuasive when he wants to be."
"Don't I know it!" Matt agreed. He was silent for a moment. "Listen, I want to talk to you about the Bradfords."
"What about them?" Justice Broman asked.
"Well, you know I've always wanted them to be a part of the twins' lives, and I still do. But I think the Gov is gonna have a very hard time accepting the fact that Mike and I will be raising them together. I think Mrs. Bradford will be OK with it, but Mr. Bradford is a pretty macho guy, and I don't think he likes gays very much from a few remarks I've heard him make. Maybe I'm just being paranoid, but I'm afraid this trip may not be too pleasant. I hafta go, though. I owe that to Sarah's memory."
"I agree, son," Justice Broman said. "This is the right thing to do. Is there something worrying you other than the possibility of a little unpleasantness?"
"I'm just hoping that Mr. Bradford won't harbor any ideas about trying to take the kids away from us."
"You don't think...?" Jane Broman interjected.
"I have absolutely no basis to think so, Mom. But the thought has occurred to me."
"Our Court has said that under normal circumstances, grandparents have only the rights that the parents give them. And state courts have been very reluctant to rule that homosexuality of a parent is prima facie evidence of unfitness to raise a child. So I'm not seeing too much of a legal problem here," Justice Broman said. "Governor Bradford is just going to have to come along kicking and screaming into the twenty-first century, that's all."
"I hope you're right, dad," Matt said. "Listen, Mom, are you sure that this isn't too much of an imposition, leaving the kids with you for a couple days?"
"You know better than that, Matt. We're going to be in our glory."
"Jane, why don't you bring them down to the courthouse about lunchtime tomorrow?" Justice Broman asked. "I want to show them off to the brethren."
"That sounds like a plan," Jane Broman agreed.
They talked awhile longer about a variety of subjects, watched the early news, and then went to bed.
* * *
Matt flew out of Washington for Hartford the next morning at 10 a.m. with only a carry-on bag. There was a small glitch when gate security thought they saw something suspicious in his bag when they x-rayed it. They opened his bag and searched it, to find that a small radio had caught their attention. Matt repacked and was on his way in a matter of minutes.
After arriving in Hartford, he walked right from the gate to the cab stand, found a cab immediately, and took it to the Hilton Hartford. It was almost noon, and he knew that the Bradfords liked to have lunch together. So he had the cab wait for him at the hotel, turned his bag over to the doorman, registered quickly at the front desk, and had the bag sent up to his room. His cab then took him right to the Governor's mansion, where indeed he caught his former inlaws just preparing to sit down to lunch in one of the small dining rooms. They weren't alone--there was a small, towheaded boy about the age of the twins in a high chair there as well.
They all greeted one another warmly, and Mary Bradford had a maid set another place for Matt. He thought his former mother-in-law looked wan and tired.
"Matt, this is such a pleasant surprise," Mrs. Bradford said. "Did you bring the twins?"
"No, they're in Washington with my mom and dad," Matt said. "They're growing like weeds, and are doing really well. You'd hardly know them. I'd like to have them come down to spend some time with you if we can work it out." Matt paused, looking at the child. "And who's this little guy? I can see a family resemblance."
"You remember Sarah's brother, Jamie?" the Governor asked. "This is his son, and he lives here permanently with us."
"Oh," Matt said, uncertain what to say. The boy sat quietly in his chair, without animation.
"Our son, as you may know, is in the Navy," Bill Bradford continued. "He got a girl here in town pregnant before being posted to a ship in the Mediterranean, and we're raising the boy because it's not 'convenient' for his mother to do so. Jamie is married to someone else now, and neither he nor his new wife wants him around as a reminder, either."
"What's his name?" Matt inquired, a little shocked at the older man's bluntness.
"Kyle," Mary Bradford said. "He's a dear, sweet child, and we love having him here, don't we, Bill?"
The Governor grunted sourly and began eating his soup.
"Hello, Kyle," Matt said softly. "How are you today?"
The boy looked at him silently with big, blue eyes.
Matt went over and sat down beside the boy. Picking up a spoon, he began to feed him the soup sitting in front of him. The youngster ate without protest.
"You don't have to do that, Matt," the Governor said. "The nanny will be here in a minute to take care of it."
"I don't mind," Matt said. "I've had a lot of practice."
He continued spooning soup into the little guy until the bowl was empty, and then patting the boy's head gently, went back and sat at his own place at the table. The youngster's eyes followed Matt without blinking.
"Well, Matt, what prompts your visit?" Mr. Bradford asked between spoonfuls of soup.
"I have something I need to talk with you about after lunch, if you have a few minutes."
"I think we can manage that."
They chatted about inconsequentials during rest of the meal. Matt broke conversational stride now and again to talk to Kyle, who continued watching him intently. Before lunch was over, the boy's nanny came into the room, and seeing that the soup was gone, spirited the child away. The youngster's eyes never left Matt's as he was carried off.
After lunch, the three of them adjourned to an adjoining sitting room for coffee, and the Governor lit a cigar, exhaling expansively.
"Now, Matt, what can we do for you?" Mr. Bradford asked.
"First I want to tell you how much I've appreciated the birthday and Christmas cards the last couple of years. I know the twins have been in your thoughts and prayers a lot since Sarah died."
Mary Bradford smiled warmly.
"We love the boys and you, Matt. I wish we could see you more often."
"I know. My parents say the same thing. But the reason I came over here was to share some news with you, and I hope you'll be happy for me."
The Governor blew smoke in the air, and looked at Matt with curiosity.
"Do you remember my adoptive brother, Mike? He was was here at Sarah's and my wedding."
"I remember him," Bill Bradford said. "A fine looking young man. In medical school, isn't he?"
"Yes. At Northwestern. To get to the heart of the matter, he and I are partnering to raise the twins together in Chicago."
"'Partnering?'" The governor frowned. "What the hell does that mean?"
"It means that Mike and I are in a gay relationship. We're going to have our partnership registered in Vermont next month, and then blessed in the Metropolitan Church in Chicago."
Mary Bradford looked startled, and the Governor's face turned bright red.
"You WHAT!!!?" the older man spat out, slamming down his coffee cup.
"We love each other, and we both love the children. I think we can do a good job raising them together," Matt said.
"You mean a good job making them fucking fruits like you two? No way, mister. I won't stand for it." Bradford wagged his head angrily at Matt.
"I came here out of friendship for you and respect for Sarah's memory to tell you my plans. I'm sorry you're so repulsed by it. But when push comes to shove, there's nothing you can do about it."
"You're unfit to raise pigs, you queer! I can't believe you were married to my Sarah. I'll get custody of the boys, and we'll raise them right here."
"Like hell you will!" Matt said, his face coloring.
"Bill..." Mary Bradford started to say, "I..."
"Shut up, Mary! I'll handle this! Where are you staying, Matt?"
"The Hilton. Why?" Matt asked, confused.
The Governor picked up a telephone on the table beside him, and dialed a number from memory.
"Metzlaar," a disembodied voice said.
"This is the Governor," Mr. Bradford said. He looked balefully over at Matt..
"Andy, I have some good information that I need to have you act upon. My former son-in-law, Matthew Broman, who's staying at the Hilton, is smuggling drugs. I want you to get a car over there right now and do a thorough search of his room. And don't stop searching until you find something, if you take my meaning."
"Bill, are you sure...?" Metzlaar said.
"Colonel, do you like your job? Do as you're told, and get back to me ASAP." The Governor slammed the phone down.
Matt stood, alarmed and prepared to leave.
The Governor also stood up, and went to the door.
"Baker!!" he shouted into the corridor.
A young state trooper came trotting down the hall.
"I want you to detain this man," Bradford said to the officer, pointing at Matt. "Handcuff him to a radiator if you have to, but keep him here."
"Sir, what's the charge?" the trooper asked.
"The charge is open," the Governor said. "Just do it!"
"You don't know it," Matt said softly to Mr. Bradford, "but your career as a public servant just came to a screeching halt."
"You're unfit to raise my grandchildren, you fucking poofter! I'll do anything to protect my family from people like you. You like it in the ass so much, just wait until you're behind bars."
The young trooper took Matt's arm to escort him from the room as Mrs. Bradford left through another door, weeping. Matt was indeed handcuffed to a radiator in the front hall, where he sat quietly, fearful in spite of himself about what was happening.
Thirty minutes later the Governor walked into the hall and stood in front of Matt.
"Detectives just found a kilo of cocaine in your bag at the Hilton, asshole. You're going away for a long time.
"Take this jerk down to the station and book him on possession of drugs with intent to distribute," Bradford said to the trooper, who uncuffed Matt from the radiator and recuffed both hands behind his back.
"You're under arrest," the young trooper said to Matt. "You have the right to remain silent. If you give up that right, anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to speak to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed to you without cost. Do you understand each of these rights as I have read them to you?"
"Yes," Matt said.
He was hustled into the back seat of a State Police car, and quickly driven off to a police station, where he was stripped, showered, dressed in a jumpsuit, booked, fingerprinted, photographed, and placed in a holding cell. He was told that his requests for an attorney would be honored after he was transferred to the county lockup, but that didn't stop a detective from coming in and attempting to interrogate him in the meantime. Matt refused to answer questions until he could speak with an attorney.
Later, he and a few other prisoners were loaded into a paddy wagon for transport to the county jail, about a 20 minute trip. He was placed in a single occupant cell, and given a thin mattress for the steel bed, a threadbare blanket, and a towel. The stainless steel sink and toilet in the cell were filthy, as was the floor. The whole place reeked of urine and excrement.
Matt spread out the mattress and lay down, pulling the blanket over him. It seemed impossible to sleep with the light in his eyes and all the jailhouse noise. He panicked for a minute, thinking about Mike and the twins and his family. Then he pulled himself together, and began to repeat to himself the verses of a Psalm he'd learned by heart during a long-ago summer he had spent with the Anglican Franciscans on Long Island when he was in high school:
O God, thou art my God; * early will I seek thee.Matt prayed for Mike and the twins, for Jeff and Martha, for his mother and father, even for both the Bradfords and for little Kyle Bradford, whose sad little face haunted him for some reason. Having done so, he fell asleep immediately, not to awaken until morning.
My soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh also longeth after thee, * in a barren and dry land where no water is.
Thus have I looked for thee in the sanctuary, * that I might behold thy power and glory.
For thy loving-kindness is better than the life itself: * my lips shall praise thee.
As long as I live will I magnify thee in this manner, * and lift up my hands in thy Name.
My soul shall be satisfied, even as it were with marrow and fatness,* when my mouth praiseth thee with joyful lips.
Have I not remembered thee in my bed, * and thought upon thee when I was waking?
Because thou hast been my helper; * therefore under the shadow of thy wings will I rejoice.
My soul hangeth upon thee; * thy right hand hath upholden me.
These also that seek the hurt of my soul, * they shall go under the earth.
Let them fall upon the edge of the sword, * that they may be a portion for foxes.
But the King shall rejoice in God; all they also that swear by him shall be commended; * for the mouth of them that speak lies shall be stopped.
* * *
The next morning Matt met with a bored and unconcerned public defender for 10 minutes before he was arraigned for possession of cocaine with intent to distribute. He told her that he had been set up, and she nodded her head politely, having heard that one before. He pleaded "Not Guilty," and bail was set at $50,000. Before he was returned to jail, he instructed the public defender to telephone Justice Matthew Broman at the Supreme Court in Washington, and have him contact an attorney in Hartford. The P.D.'s eyes widened as she glanced again at Matt's file and saw that his name indeed matched that of the Supreme Court justice. She did as Matt had asked, and before long a well dressed, bespectacled, aristocratic looking attorney showed up at the jail with a bail bondsman, and Matt was soon free. For the moment.
The attorney's name was Peter Bell, and he told Matt that he had been in law school with his dad. That made Matt feel a little better. They went back to Bell's office, and Matt told the attorney the whole story of what had transpired from the time he walked into the Executive Mansion for lunch to the point at which he fell asleep in jail. Mr. Bell was incredulous.
"Matt," he said, "this could really be a tough case to win. If what you're telling me is true, and I don't disbelieve you, we have a sitting governor and the commander of the Connecticut State Police and his subordinates ready to perjure themselves in court to the effect that you were in possession of a large amount of cocaine. I don't know where to begin on this, to tell you the truth."
"Mr. Bell," Matt said, "I want you to know first of all that I have never used illegal drugs in my entire life, other than some underage drinking. I know that's a little unusual for someone my age, but it's the truth. I hate drugs with a passion. Of all the things that Governor Bradford might have used to get me declared unfit to raise my sons, none is more unlikely than the scenario he chose to make up." Matt fell silent for a moment. Then his eyes lighted up.
"You know," he continued, "maybe my bag and how the cocaine allegedly got into it is just the place to start unraveling this thing."
"How so?" Bell asked.
"Well, I only had one bag with me on this trip, a carry-on. When I got ready to board the plane in Washington, security saw a little clock radio I travel with on the x-ray at the gate, and they pulled my bag and searched the whole thing. They obviously didn't find a kilo of cocaine in it anywhere.
"When I got to Hartford and disembarked," Matt went on, "I left the airport arrival area immediately and grabbed a taxi. The arrival time of the plane and the time I climbed in the cab couldn't be more than two or three minutes apart. The cab company dispatcher should have the time, and I'm sure we can track down the cab driver if we need to. It was a Yellow Cab. The cab driver took me right to the Hilton. I had him wait for me. I gave the bag to the doorman while I checked in, and a bellman took it right upstairs. I've never even seen my room there, because I went right from the registration desk and got back in the cab to go to the Executive Mansion. It seems to me that it would have been pretty difficult for me on that tight a schedule to acquire a kilo of cocaine anytime after arriving in Hartford, and pack it away in my bag."
"Son, you have what it takes to be a very competent criminal attorney," Mr. Bell said. "You're giving me a good start on a workable strategy here."
"I'll tell you something else," Matt said. "I don't think Mary Bradford likes what the Governor has done. I know it's a long shot, but I just don't think she'll be willing to perjure herself if she's called to the stand during trial. She heard her husband tell Colonel, uh, is it 'Metzlaar,' that he should have his people keep searching my room until they found something. I guess the Colonel must have protested, because the Governor asked him if he liked his job and wanted to keep it, and to get back to him ASAP. She heard all that, and my read on her is that she won't lie."
"I'll be damned," Bell said. "I didn't think Bill Bradford would be this stupid."
A secretary knocked on the door, and called the lawyer outside. He came back in a minute, frowning.
"The State's Attorney just found out who you are, Matt. He's requested another bail hearing, and the judge is gonna give it to him. Come on, we have to go back to court. Y'know, this is really starting to smell."
"Tell me about it!"
Back in court, an Assistant State's Attorney asked that Matt's bail be raised to $250,000, pointing out that the Broman family was so wealthy that he could conceivably flee the jurisdiction for foreign climes. The judge granted the motion, and once more the bail bondsman went into action to set Matt free. The judge also asked Matt for his passport, but he informed the court it was back in Chicago. Mr. Bell asked the judge to set a short date for trial, and that request was granted.
Bell and Matt went back to the lawyer's office, where the attorney immediately contacted a private investigator to start pulling together the facts to verify Matt's story. He also sent someone over to the Hilton to check Matt out of the hotel, and then registered him in a modest little Day's Inn under an assumed name. He told him to keep a low profile and to stick close to the motel unless he absolutely had to go out.
After Matt left, and with his permission, Bell called Justice Broman and laid out the case for him. Matt's dad was thunderstruck at what had occurred, and let Bell know that any resources needed to defend his son successfully were his for the asking.
Bell's next call was to State's Attorney Al Shaffer, personally.
"Al, Pete Bell."
"Pete! How are ya?"
"I'm good. Listen, I suppose you know that Justice Matthew Broman's son has been arrested for possession of cocaine with intent to distribute?"
"Yeah, I heard."
"I'm representing the kid."
"Well, he's got the best, then."
"He's Bill Bradford's former son-in-law, did you know that?
"How long have you known me, Al?"
"Long enough. Why?"
"I wanna give you a heads-up. This was a setup from the git-go, and I'm gonna be able to prove it with no sweat. I want you to know ahead of time that Bill Bradford and Andy Metzlaar's people set the kid up so Bill could get custody of the grandsons. Bill could end up going to jail for this, and maybe Andy, too."
"I hate this shit," he said. "I'll be watching the case, Al. If you can introduce sufficient evidence, we'll join you in a motion to dismiss. Then we'll go from there on Bradford and Metzlaar if we have to. That's all I can tell you."
"I can't ask for more than that, Al. Thanks. See ya."
They hung up.
* * *
Before going to his new lodgings, Matt bought some socks, underwear and some clothes, because he certainly hadn't packed for an extended stay in Hartford.
Ensconced in his new room, Matt lay down on the bed with the phone on his chest and dialed his partner in Chicago. A very distraught-sounding Mike answered the phone. Matt started at the beginning and told Mike everything that had transpired thus far in Hartford. Mike was obviously afraid for him and wanted to come to Hartford right away, but Matt calmed him down and persuaded him he needed to stay with Jeff, as they had planned.
"Mike, I love you. I have the truth on my side, bro. I have a good attorney. Now it's time for us to have a little faith and say our prayers. 'K?"
"Yes." Mike was barely audible, and sounded so sad it almost broke Matt's heart.
"Listen, bud, I have a lot of funny stories to tell you yet, really good ones. You don't think I'm gonna let 'em go to waste, do you? You'll be laughing your ass off in no time."
"That'll be the day," Mike said, sounding a little more cheerful.
"You doubt me? All right, then, just as a reminder of how great these jokes are:
"The Lone Ranger and Tonto had been riding down the trail all day. When
they had stopped to take a rest, Tonto placed his ear to the ground and
"'Buffalo come,' Tonto said.
"'How can you tell, Tonto?' asked the Lone Ranger.
"Ugh," Mike said, laughing in spite of himself.
"You're funny, too, sweetboy," Matt said. "It must be catching."
They were quiet for a moment.
"Mike, I saw a very sad little boy yesterday."
"Michael's and Matthew's cousin, Kyle--Jamie's son out of wedlock. He's been living with the Bradfords because Jamie and his former girlfriend are now married to different people, and nobody wants him. Mrs. Bradford is doing her best with him, but it's a pretty loveless and sterile home from what I can see. If he ends up homeless for any reason as a result of all this uproar with the Bradfords, I'd like to have us take him and raise him with the twins. Would that be all right with you? We have a lot of love to give, I think"
"Absolutely! That would be really good!"
"I'm glad. He needs us, I think. We can talk more about it later. Now, I don't want you worrying about me. I mean it. Give my love to Jeff, and take care of him, 'K?"
"You got it! But you better get your ass home quick, all right? I love you, and I miss you."
"Yep. See ya soon." They hung up.
Matt dialed his dad, who answered on the first ring.
"Dad, it's Matt. Did Mr. Bell call you?"
"Matt! I was hoping you'd call. Yes, he phoned. Are you all right?"
"Yeah, I'm fine. Isn't this the damndest situation you ever heard of?"
"Yes, and then some. I'm totally shocked at Bill Bradford's conduct."
"Well, I can tell you that I have a renewed appreciation for the phrase, 'Innocent until proven guilty.' It's not just an academic principle for me anymore."
Mr. Broman chuckled.
"Reassure Mom that we're well on the way to beating this thing, will ya, Dad?"
"And Dad, I want you to hire some security at the apartment for the twins until this thing is over."
"Well, who would've thought he'd go as far as he has. The guy is bonkers, at least on the subject of gays."
"You're right. It's done."
"I'm sorry all this crap will come down on you to some degree, Dad."
"Son, this little tempest isn't going to affect me at all. You put that out of your mind. And I may see you sooner than you think."
"I could use the support, but I know you're busy, especially now. I love you. Tell Mom and the boys I love them. I'll see ya all soon."
Before hanging up, Matt gave his dad his fictitious registration name at the Day's Inn, his location and phone number.
Putting the phone down, he turned on the television, and there was his
picture for all the world to see. An old picture, and he looked
like a dork, he thought. Sinking back on his pillow, he listened
to what a bad dude he allegedly was, and he didn't feel too good about