WORKING IT OUT--Book 3, Part 8

Matt arrived home from school late Thursday afternoon in a great mood.  One of his professors had returned an exam given before the holidays, and he'd aced it.  That was in addition to the high he was still on after a wonderful time during Christmas vacation back in Pennsylvania.  So he was a happy guy as he stepped off the elevator at the condo, greeted the security guard on duty, and went into the den.

Chris and Josh were sitting on the big leather couch, talking and watching the early news on TV.

"Hey, guys!" Matt said as he took off his jacket and cap and hung them up.

"Hiya, Matt," Chris said.  "You just missed the weather.  They had a big snowstorm out East, and a weather lady there just reported that she got a good eight inches last night."

Josh and Matt laughed.

"Buddy," Matt said, "you need some other things to think about.  We gotta get those casts off you."

"I know it.  Anyway, you're looking pumped.  'Sup?"

"Not much.  Things are just going well at school.  Josh, what are you doing home so early?"  Matt noted how much Josh's demeanor had improved since he had been taking the antidepressants that Mike's doctor friend had prescribed.

"I had an appointment with my counselor this afternoon, so I knocked off a little early," Josh said.  "Somebody has to keep tabs on Chris."

"That's for damn sure!  Who knows what mischief he gets into when he's left to his own devices," Matt said, grinning at Chris.  "Speaking of mischief, where are the kids?"

"Linda has 'em up in the pool," Chris said.  "They bugged her and bugged her until she gave in and took 'em up."

"They're nothing if not persistent," Matt said.

"Yep," Chris agreed.  "I sure have a hard time saying 'No' to 'em."

"Me, too.  Josh, how do you like your counselor?"

"I've only had two sessions, but he's good.  He's easy to talk to, and he seems to know his stuff.  Mike did good when he recommended him."

"Excellent!  While I'm thinking about it, do you have any plans for tomorrow night?"

"No, why?" Josh asked.

"I think you and Mike and me should hit a few bars," Matt said.

Josh looked at him skeptically.  "Why?"

"Well, I think you need to experience some Chicago night life."

"What kind of Chicago night life?"

"Aw, shucks, you're too smart for me.  I think we need to hit a few gay bars."

Josh groaned.  "I don't know if I'm ready for that or not."

"I guess we'll find out, won't we?  Every now and then the natives like some fresh meat.  Heh."

"Ewwww!  I know I'm not ready for that!"

"I'm only kidding you about the fresh meat part," Matt reassured Josh, turning serious.  "I hope you know we would never let anybody put the moves on you if you weren't happy about it.  I'm aware you're probably not ready to date yet.  But I do think you should go with us.  If nothing else, consider yourself our security guy for the evening."

"What's wrong with this picture?" Chris asked.  "You and Mike don't like the bar scene."

"I know," Matt admitted.  "But Josh needs to start scoping things out."

"Does Mike know about this yet?" Chris asked.

"No, but he'll love the idea," Matt insisted.

"Can I go, too?" Chris asked.  "I've never been to a gay bar."

"Well, yeah, if you want to," Matt laughed.  "The guys'll love ya, Chris.  Especially since you're still on crutches and can't get away from 'em.  Wear your tightest pair of Levi's and show some chest."

"Ha, ha, you're hilarious," Chris said, letting Matt's suggestions roll off him like water off a duck's back.  "Josh'll protect me, won't cha, buddy?"

"Well..." Josh said, still looking uncertain about the whole thing.

Matt could not help wondering momentarily why Josh, a handsome, self-confident, even bold young man in every area of his life other than with respect to his sexual orientation, would allow that one issue to stress him out so much.  After all, it wasn't as if someone were outing him to a hostile world.  But Matt kept his thoughts to himself, believing that Josh would eventually come to grips with his homosexuality in his own way and in his own good time.  He reminded himself sternly that there was no master plan for being gay and being good at it.

"All right, then!" Matt said, plowing right ahead.  "We're agreed about Friday night, then.  We'll go about 10 p.m. so ya get maximum exposure."

"Go where?" Mike asked, coming into the den right then with his back pack full of books, looking beat.

"We're in luck, dude!" Matt said enthusiastically.  "Chris and Josh are gonna take us out on the town tomorrow night."

"Hmmm.  Why do I think maybe this wasn't their idea?" Mike asked, smiling.

"They'd have thought of it eventually," Matt insisted.  "I just came up with it first."

"He's devious, Mike," Chris said, laughing it up.  "Ya gotta watch 'im!"

"Tell me something I don't know," Mike said.  "Just what does 'out on the town' mean, exactly?" he asked Matt.

"We'll start out at 'Scoes, and who knows where we'll end up?"

Mike knew exactly what Matt was doing, trying to nudge Josh into socializing with some gays other than themselves.

"All right," Mike said.  "We're on!" he added with more enthusiasm than he felt.

Chris looked up at Matt and Mike from the couch.  "Changing the subject for just a minute, while you guys are both here, I have a recommendation about security I want to run by you," he said.

"Shoot," Mike said.  Then he chuckled.  "Uh, I forgot.  Never say 'shoot' to a cop."

Chris grinned.  "I need you to be serious for a minute.  I think you should have a camera put in your elevator, and another one set to pan the garage.  You're vulnerable at the garage level.  You can put camera monitors in your own foyer for the security guy up here, and also here in the den, since that's where we all spend a lot of time.  And I think you need a shut-off switch for your elevator in your foyer and in the den here, too, just in case you don't like who you're seeing in your elevator."

"I'm not sure about the camera in the garage idea, unless the monitor is only viewable by the doorman and the security guard downstairs," Matt said, thinking like a lawyer.  "If we can monitor the garage up here, we'd then be surveiling every resident who parked downstairs and went to their own condo or anybody who visited any condo in this whole building.  The other condo owners would have a legitimate gripe about that, I should think.  As far as a camera in our private elevator is concerned and the shut-off switches for our elevator, those are great ideas.  I don't see any problem with them.  And now that I think about it, I think a microphone and a speaker in our elevator would also be a good idea, so if we stop the elevator with a stranger in it, we can talk to the person.  You wanna go ahead and have all that elevator stuff installed?" he asked Chris.

"I can do that.  I'll get some bids."

"Does this mean that you've decided to accept our job offer, then?" Mike asked hopefully.

"Yes, if the offer's still open.  I've given it a lot of thought, and I'd like to do this whether I'm fit for duty with the state police or not," Chris said.

"Yes!!!" Mike said.  "You don't know how happy this makes me!  Makes us, I should say!  Getcher ass up and get welcomed to the family again, dude!"

Matt and Mike reached down and pulled the young cop up on to his good leg and embraced him, each of them kissing his cheek before letting him go.  He grinned from ear to ear, and kissed them right back with no hesitation.

"Love ya, man!" Mike said.  And that's true, he thought to himself.  Chris' personality, a mixture of tenderness and toughness, his honesty, and his wiseass approach to life which had reasserted itself as he healed from his wounds, had made him fit in so well with their family.  Mike and Matt had been dreading the day when he might move out and move on.  That would have left a big hole in the life of everybody in the condo, and especially in the lives of the three little boys who loved him and admired him so much.

"Thanks, guys," Chris said seriously.  "I hope you know I love everybody in this family, and I'll try never to let you down."

"Congratulations, Chris!" Josh said, standing up and hugging his friend as well.  "I know you'll do one hell of a job."

"Thank you, Josh," Chris said.

"Aw, you're having a love fest, and I wasn't invited," Linda said, coming into the den right then trailed by three damp little boys in their swimming trunks, big towels slung over their shoulders and almost dragging on the floor.

"Chris has agreed to head up our security team, Lin," Matt said.

"That makes me happy!" Linda said, going over and hugging Chris.  "This is really good news.  Thank you, Chris."  She took his face in her hands and gave him a peck on the lips for good measure which he returned.

"Thanks, Linda," Chris said, beaming.  He looked at Matt and Mike.  "One more thing.  I know your dad wanted me to go to Zurich right away for some courses on security, but I want to postpone the trip until Neil Anderson is caught.  I think the more eyes we have around here right now, the safer we're all gonna be."

"Then you go when you think the time is right, buddy," Mike said.

"What's happening, Dad?" Kyle demanded, yanking on Mike's pant leg and looking up at him.

"Good news, boys!" Mike said.  "Uncle Chris is going to be staying with us permanently.  And I think he needs some smoochies."

Chris sat down on the couch again and held out his arms, and the boys climbed into his lap, wet suits and all, and gave him hugs and some good little boy kisses.

The phone rang just then, and Mike answered it.  "Hello?"  He listened.  "Thanks, Dom, send him up," he said, putting the receiver back in its cradle..

Matt looked at him inquiringly.

"Father David is on his way up," Mike said, and he and Matt headed for the foyer.

The elevator doors opened, and there was David Howard in his usual black ensemble and white clerical collar.  The security guard in the hall took his hand off his gun when he saw the new arrival was a priest.

"Hola, Padre," Matt said, shaking hands with their priest, followed by Mike.  "Can't stay away, huh?  'Sup?"

"I talked to Martha today, and she and Jeff are flying into O'Hare tomorrow afternoon," Father David said.

"Hmmm.  That's a surprise!  Whaddaya suppose the attraction could possibly be here in Chicago?" Matt asked.

"I can't imagine," the priest said with a big smile.

"Well, you can bet their primary mission isn't to see me and Matt," Mike surmised, laughing.  "Looks like maybe you have a date, dude!"

David grinned.  "I'm ready for that," he said.

"Is this where I'm supposed ask about your intentions?" Matt joshed the priest.  "Somebody has to stand in for Dad, y'know."

"My intentions are honorable," Father David insisted.  "Maybe Father Rohm can chaperone."

"Wouldn't that be a fun date," Matt said.  "You could all chat about canon law or something equally fascinating."

They all laughed.

"I'm only kidding about Father Rohm," Matt added.  "You know I respect him totally."

"He deserves it," David said.

"Can you stay for dinner?" Mike asked David.

"I have one more parishioner I have to visit yet this afternoon," David said.  "I can come back after that.  Uh, what are you having?"

"I honestly don't know," Matt said.  "Mary's in sole possession of that information."

"I'm only joking," the priest said.  "I'd eat bread and water with you guys just for the good company.  I'll make the visit and then go change my clothes before I come back.  Thanks for the invite.  I want to hear about your visit with Bob Fischer, by the way."

"Cool," Matt said.  "But come into the den before you go.  I want you to meet somebody."

The three of them went into the den, and Matt introduced David to Josh.

"I've heard a lot about you, Father," Josh said with a smile, getting up from the couch and shaking hands.

"It's all lies unless it was good," the priest said, laughing.

"It was all good, as a matter of fact," Josh said.

"Josh is a state trooper, like Chris," Mike explained.  "He's been kind enough to stay with us during evening hours until Neil Anderson is caught."

"That's good news," Father David said.  "Anything new on that front, by the way?"

"He robbed a bank in Evanston the other day and got away clean with $10 thousand, in case you missed it in the papers," Mike said.

The priest shook his head.  "Well, I'll really rest a lot easier when he's caught.  Listen, I'd better go.  Josh, good meeting you."

"Same here, Father," Josh said.

"See ya in awhile," Mike said.  "Bring some swimming trunks unless you wanna swim naked.  In fact, bring some and leave 'em here so you can swim any time."

"Will do."  Father Howard turned and started for the elevator, turning back around as he reached the door of the den.  "I'm sure she knows, but maybe we should call Andie tonight just to make sure Jeff told her he's coming.  He might be trying to surprise her like you told me she surprised him at Christmas."

"Okey dokey," Matt told him as David entered the elevator and the doors closed.

Matt and Mike went back into the den.

"Boys, go change out of your swim suits into something dry," Mike instructed the kids.  "Put your suits on the side of the tub to dry, OK?"

"OK, Dad," Kyle said as the three of them squirmed out of Chris' lap and headed for their bedroom.   Matt and Mike followed as they went to their own room to change out of their school clothes and into Levi's and T's.

Once in their bedroom, Mike closed the door behind them and followed Matt over to their closet.  Standing behind him, he put his arms around him and kissed him on the side of his neck, and then reached down and squeezed his crotch.

Matt turned around and embraced his partner, kissing him on the lips.  "Lord, I love you, Mike.  I was thinking about you at school all day today."

"Me, too," Mike said, looking into Matt's eyes.  "You just keep getting cuter, ya know?  And sexier.  I don't know how you expect me to do my school work with you and your bod on my mind all the time.  I'll probably flunk out.  This bed looks awfully good to me right now."

"I know it.  Let's make love after we get some studying done tonight."  Matt ran his hands up and down Mike's back, and then moved lower to squeeze the cheeks of his ass.

"You're on, dude!" Mike agreed, not letting go of his lover right away because it just felt so good to hold him.  Eventually they unclenched with a parting kiss and changed clothes, watching each other appreciatively as they stripped and pulled on their usual Levi's and T's.

Matt went to the boys' room to make sure that they had changed into dry clothes.  Then he and the kids went back to the den.  Mike strolled into the kitchen to see if he could help Mary with the meal.

"Hi, Mom," he said to Mary, who was stirring a big pan of something at the stove.  The smell made his mouth water.  He kissed her cheek, peering over her shoulder at the food.  "How ya doin'?"

"Good, Mike," Mary said.  "How are you, sweetheart?"

"I'm good," Mike said.  "And hungry.  Something smells wonderful.  Do we have enough for Father David to join us?"

"Plenty," Mary said.  "We're having pot roast."

"I'm drooling.  What can I do to help?"

"You can set the table and open some wine," she said.  "Shall we try some of that Burgundy I bought the other day?"

"Sounds good."  Mike went into the dining room and turned on the light.  Going over to the sideboard, he removed a stack of plates and bowls from it and began putting them on the place mats around the table.  Then he put silverware beside the plates along with wine glasses for the adults and regular glasses for the kids.  When he was finished with that, he took four bottles of Burgundy out of the wine rack, and opened them to let them breathe.  Then he went back into the kitchen.

"We're all set in the dining room," he told Mary.  "Can I do anything else?"

"No, dear, thank you," Mary said.  "Go visit with the gang, and I'll call you when things are ready.  It should be about an hour.  Maybe less."

When Father David returned to the condo about forty-five minutes later in Levi's and a T-shirt, everybody except for Stan and Linda was sitting in the den talking for a few minutes before dinner was ready.

"I heard a good story today," Matt said as he, his partner and the priest sat down.

Mike looked at him uneasily, glancing at Father David out of the corner of his eye.

"Mike's giving me the fish eye," Matt said, "but this one's fit for general consumption, I promise.  Maybe you've actually had this experience, Father.

"One day a drunk staggered into church and sat
down in a confession box, but said nothing.

"The priest coughed to get his attention, but still the
man said nothing.

"The priest then knocked on the wall three times,
trying to get the man to speak.

Finally, the drunk said, "No use knocking, there's
no paper in this one, either."

Everybody laughed.  Matt was sitting next to the priest on the couch, and David grabbed him around the neck and gave him hard nuggies.

"Ow!  That wasn't very pastoral of you," Matt said accusingly.

"Au contraire," Father David said.  "That was just a foretaste of the afterlife for you, buddy!  That makes it purely pastoral."

"You're no fun!" Matt kidded him.  "By the way, did you read the business page in the paper this morning?"

"No, why?"

"There's a merger going on among some of the big companies.  Hale Business Systems, Mary Kay Cosmetics, Fuller Brush and W. R. Grace
Co. are merging.  The new company will be Hale, Mary, Fuller, Grace."

Everybody roared, and Matt looked pleased with himself.

"I give up on you!" David said fondly, putting his arm around Matt and giving him a little shake.

Mike looked thoughtful.  "Y'know, Matt, since Jeff and Martha are going to be here tomorrow night, maybe we better put off taking Josh barhopping," he suggested.  "We can't go next weekend, either," he added.  "That's Linda's and Stan's wedding."

Josh tried not to look relieved, but failed.

"Right," Matt agreed.  "Two weeks, then.  Don't look so happy, Josh.  You're not off the hook yet, bud."

Stan walked into the den.  "Hello, Father.  This is a pleasant surprise."

"Hey, Stan!" the priest stood up and greeted him with a hug.  "How are you, bud?"

"Good, thanks, Father.  Mike, did I hear you taking my name taken in vain as I got off the elevator?" Stan asked.

"Guilty as charged," Mike said.  "We were talking about your wedding.  You're a short-timer, dude!"

"I know it," Stan said with a big smile.  "Where is the love of my life, anyway?"

"She had the boys up swimming," Mike said.  "She went to change into dry clothes and hasn't come back yet.  Where have you been?"

"I took the boys' bikes to the bike shop to get the training wheels put on, and waited for 'em to do the work, so I'm running a little late," Stan said.  "The bikes are still down in Matt's truck, so maybe we can bring 'em up later."

"Good deal!" Matt said.  "Thanks for doing that.  You prolly saved us hours of frustration."

Mary came into the room just then, smiling when she saw David.  "Good evening, Father.  It's nice to see you."

The priest stood up and gave her a hug and a kiss on the cheek.  "Thank you, Mary.  You, too.  You're looking well."

"Life is good," she said.  "And dinner is ready."

"I'll go get Lin," Stan said.

"Boys, go wash your hands," Matt told the little guys as everyone stood up.  "Use soap."  The kids had been playing with their Legos.

"They're clean already from the pool, Dad," Michael protested.

"Wash 'em," Matt repeated, shaking his head.  "You've been playing on the floor."

The boys protested, but went to do as they were told.

Everyone eventually gathered around the table, breathing in the good smells of pot roast, vegetables and hot, garlicky French bread.  Matt and Mike poured Burgundy for the adults and milk for the boys while Mary added Italian dressing to a huge bowl of salad.

"Father, will you return thanks?" Mike asked when all was ready.

David nodded.  "The Lord be with you," he said.

"And also with you," they all responded.

"Let us pray," the priest said as they all held hands.  "Heavenly Father, we approach you yet again as we prepare to share your bounty around this table.  We bless your name for the affection and kindness and generosity that mark the relationships of everyone here, knowing that we are only reflecting your own great heart of love for mankind.  We ask you to protect and preserve us from all evil in this world.  Give us grace to love all who cross our path, and grateful hearts for all the good things we have received at your hand.  In your Son's name, we ask you to bless this food to our use and us to your faithful service, through the same Jesus Christ our Lord."


They all made the sign of the cross and sat down.  Father David inhaled the steam from the pot roast.

"Mary, this smells marvelous!" the priest said, standing again and taking a huge bowl of pot roast and serving the three boys.  "You're gonna like this," he told the kids.

"I know it," Kyle said.  "This is one of our favorites."

"No kidding," Father David said as he sat down and passed the bowl on around the table.  "What else do you like?"

"Hamburgers and hot dogs!" Matthew said.  "And corn dogs!  With lots of mustard."

"I should have guessed that," David said.  "I like 'em, too."

They all had a meal together full of conversation and laughter, resulting in no 'left-overs' and four empty wine bottles.  One of the main subjects of conversation was Stan's and Linda's upcoming wedding.  The couple were obviously excited about 'their day.'  Father David explained to them that he would not be able to attend the church ceremony because he was performing a wedding himself at St. Stephen's at the same hour, but that he was looking forward being at their wedding  reception at the condo that Saturday evening.  Matt and Mike had also invited Stan to host a catered rehearsal dinner for the wedding party at the condo on Friday night before the wedding.  He had only reluctantly agreed, feeling that the Bromans had had already done so much for Linda and him.

After dinner, Matt and Mike cleaned up the dining room and kitchen, and then went back to their room to study while everyone else repaired to the den to talk and relax.  Before opening his books, Matt called Andie and confirmed that she knew Jeff was flying into Chicago the next afternoon with Martha.  She said she planned to pick up the two of them at O'Hare Field, and that they would come directly to the condo afterwards.  Then Matt and Mike began studying.

About 8 p.m., Father David knocked softly on their open bedroom door.  He came in and the three of them talked for a bit about the conversation Mike, Matt and Stan had had with Dr. Fischer and Dean Hodges at St. Stephen's School earlier in the week concerning the bullying incident.  Matt and Mike tried not to sound too critical of Dean Hodges, simply telling the priest that the dean had not seemed to think the incident involving the three Broman boys had been all that important.  The two of them praised the principal though, and told David that Dr. Fischer had promised to develop policies and procedures on bullying to take to the Rector and the Vestry.  They also said that Stan had been able to identify the two bullies from their pictures in the school yearbook, and had passed their names on to Fischer.  David seemed pleased with the information, and got up to go home, saying he would see them the next evening after Martha and Jeff arrived in town.

As the three of them rose from their chairs, Matt impulsively drew Father Howard into a hug.

"Have we thanked you recently for being such a good pastor to us and to our family?" he asked.  "A good priest and a good person--that's a winning combination, y'know."

"That's true, David," Mike added, following suit with a hug.  "We appreciate you more than we can say."

They had caught David by surprise, and he was silent for a moment.  "You two lift my heart every time I'm around you," he said finally when his wits returned.  "And you help me honor my calling.  Thank you for that."

They said goodbye and David left.  But before Mike and Matt returned to their studies, they talked for a few minutes about living space for Jeff and Andie after they were married.  Mike proposed buying the condo for sale on the floor below them, and Matt liked the idea.

They agreed that if Jeff and Andie liked the place, they would talk to Chris and Josh about what new configuration of their two condos would best guarantee security for the whole family.  Matt promised his partner he would prepare a request for remodeling to the condo board of directors based upon whatever concept for security the two policemen came up with.  The board would probably be able to consider the request at one of their meetings toward the end of January or February.  Mike said he thought he could re-engage the same architect who had been recommended by Berman Worldwide Engineering, the man that he had used previously when he had taken occupancy of the entire top floor. That was provided, of course, that Jeff and Andie liked the new space.

When they finished talking, it was back to the books until 9 p.m., when Matt stood up from his desk, groaning and stretching.

"Where do you think you're going, buddy?" Mike asked, looking up at him from the text he was reading.  "I have big plans for you. Big plans."

"I'm gonna bathe the kids and put them to bed, if they're still up," Matt said.  "And don't look at me like that.  You're making me hard already."

"Heh!  Tough bananas.  Or should I say, 'Tough banana'?"

"Get a grip on your own banana, Mister, and I'll show you how tough mine is in a little while."

Matt went next door to the boys' room.  The boys weren't there, so he went on down the hall to the den.  Chris and Josh and the kids were playing a board game in front of the fireplace.

"I hate to break up your game, guys, but it's bath time," Matt said.

"You're gonna give Josh and me our baths tonight?" Chris asked.  "That's pretty accommodating of ya, Matt."

Chris and Josh, the rest of the adults, and the boys all laughed.

"I liked it better around here when I was the only wiseass--oops, did I say that word?" Matt said, laughing, too, and looking at the kids.  "I liked it better around here when I was the only wiseguy around here, that's what I was meant to say."

"You arrived in the nick of time," Josh chimed in, looking up at Matt.  "The boys are beating our butts off here."

"Well, if you two officers of the law want to savor fully the agony of defeat, leave the board and cards exactly as they are," Matt suggested, "and pick up the game tomorrow night right where you left off.  But I need to get the chlorine from the pool off these three little dudes before bed.  Common, boys, say goodnight to everybody.  Oh, and will one of you guys walk Breakers tonight?  Mike and I are turning in early."

"I will," Stan said.

After the usual protests, the kids said goodnight, and Matt herded them back to their bedroom and supervised their bath.  After the three boys were dried off and were in their PJ's, the three of them and their dad knelt together at the side of Michael's bed and said their prayers.  Then the boys climbed into their respective beds, received their goodnight kisses from their dad, and Matt turned out the overhead light.  Their little night light came on automatically.  Matt stood for a long moment in the dim light, just looking at and loving those kids, before he went back to his and Mike's room, closing and locking their bedroom door after him.

Mike shut off his study lamp immediately, and stood up from his desk, stretching.  He went over and stood with his partner beside their bed, putting his arms around him and kissing his lips softly.

"I love you so much, Matt," he said, eventually stopping the kissing and pulling his partner's T-shirt off over his head.  Then he reached down, unbuttoning the top button and the fly of Matt's faded 501's, letting them fall to his feet.  Matt stood there, still clad in his Nike's and his shorts.  The bulge in Matt's white-banded, gray jockies grew more prominent.

Matt sat down on the side of the bed as Mike removed his shoes and socks for him, and then Matt raised his butt as Mike ran his hands under the elastic band of his undershorts and slid them off.  Matt's penis had hardened quickly, and it slapped up against his abs.

"You're so beautiful, sometimes I wonder how I'm lucky enough to be married to you," Mike said in a husky voice, taking in his partner's trim, muscular form.

Smiling, Matt responded only by standing back up and methodically stripping Mike until he was naked and hard as well, getting in a lick or two on his nipples and kissing and then sucking gently on his neck.  Together, they pulled the bedspread, light blanket and top sheet down, and got into bed, Mike on top of his partner, his blue eyes sparkling in anticipation as he looked down into Matt's browns.

"You feel wonderful," Mike said, his hands gently caressing Matt's sides up and down as he probed inside his partner's mouth with his tongue.  "I need you!" he added when he broke off the kiss.

Matt raised his arms and held Mike's face in his hands.  "Mike, I love you so much I want to be you!  That's a lot of love, y'know!"  Moving Mike higher on his body, Matt nuzzled his partner's beautiful chest and then began licking and nibbling on his nipples, gently biting first one and then the other.

Mike began to groan, so horny that his penis emitted a first drop of precum almost immediately on to Matt's abs.  He and Matt then rolled on to their sides, facing one another.  Mike reversed himself on the bed so he could kiss and lick Matt's inner thighs starting where his legs connected to his torso.  He continued licking and kissing there for some length of time, ignoring his partner's balls and his pulsing cock for the moment.  Eventually he rolled Matt over on his stomach, and parting the globes of his ass, began to lick smoothly up and down his crack and around his balls, not lingering in any one place.  Then, without warning, he plunged his tongue as deeply into Matt's pucker as he could, wiggling it vigorously as Matt groaned in appreciation.  After Matt's anus was good and stimulated, Mike moistened his fingers and began patiently inserting them into his lover one by one as Matt pressed back against Mike's hand.

After three fingers were in with no discomfort, Mike swiveled Matt on to his back, put his butt on a pillow, hiked his legs over his shoulders, and substituted his rigid penis for the fingers.  Mike worked his cock in slowly until his pubes were flush against his partner's ass.

"Yes, Mike!" Matt gasped as his lover began pumping very slowly in and out.  "Please.  Fuck me, and make it last."

Mike raised himself on his arms and looked down into Matt's handsome face, now contorted with the pleasure and passion of their coupling.  Mike slowly flexed his hips, glorying in the feel of his penis thrusting in its tight cocoon.  Lowering his head, Mike kissed his partner deeply as he continued moving deliberately in and out, occasionally wiggling his ass and changing his angle of entry, but always returning to the optimum angle to massage Matt's prostate.  As the minutes went by, Mike's sweat began to drop down on to Matt chest, commingling with the precum now dribbling from the latter's dick.  A small puddle of precum and sweat would no sooner form in the crevices of Matt's abs than Mike would curtail his pace momentarily, lower his head and suck up the sweetness and the salt, occasionally then giving Matt's rigid dick a swipe with his tongue as well.

Mike moved within his partner slowly and deliberately for perhaps fifteen minutes, only gradually increasing his rhythm as Matt reached up and kneaded Mike's muscular arms and shoulders and pinched his nipples.  After twenty-five minutes had passed, Mike was pounding into Matt at a good, fast pace, and unable to delay the inevitable any longer, orgasmed with a deep groan.  Matt had not come as yet, and Mike put his head down, taking his partner's penis in his mouth, running his tongue around the corona of it.  Mike then fellated him completely with one full downward stroke, and Matt began firing shot after shot of thick semen into Mike's mouth and throat as the latter drank it down.

Mike collapsed on top of Matt, kissing him deeply and sharing Matt's own seed with him.  Chests heaving, hearts racing, they clung together with Mike's dick still partially in Matt's ass as they started to come down from their high and began to doze.  Mike awakened a few short minutes later when his now limp penis fell away completely from Matt.  He kissed his partner softly, and getting up, went to the bathroom and moistened a hand towel with hot water.  Returning to the bed, he joyfully cleaned Matt up and then himself.  Throwing the towel to the floor and pulling up the covers, he turned off his bedside lamp and hugged his softly breathing partner, the love of his life, to himself as the warm darkness of sleep slowly overtook them both.

"Thank you for being my husband, Mike," Matt said quietly as they drifted off.

*  *  *

Andie had driven to O'Hare Field on Friday afternoon, and had miraculously found a good parking space in the short-term parking garage across from the terminal.  As she walked to the terminal through an underground passage, the airline monitors scattered here and there told her that Jeff's and Martha's flight was already at the gate, so she went ahead to the security check point and waited there.

She spotted Martha and handsome young Jeff walking toward her, the latter striding confidently down the long corridor from the gate carrying his own and Martha's carry-on bags in those big paws of his.  Her heart skipped a beat, and she momentarily had to fight back tears because she loved this man so much.  It had only been five days since she had seen him, but she had missed him to the point that her chest hurt.  Martha saw Andie waiting for them, and they exchanged waves from a distance.  When Jeff saw Andie, his face turned into one big grin and he picked up the pace, causing Martha almost to have to run to keep up with him.

The two travelers exited into the general terminal, and Martha stood smiling as Jeff dropped their bags and swept Andie up in his arms, kissing her greedily and repeatedly.  Martha thought she saw tears in Jeff's eyes for a split second, but then he was all smiles again.  This boy has it bad, she thought to herself as she stood there and enjoyed watching the two lovers greet each other.  When the couple disengaged, Andie hugged Martha and they exchanged kisses on the cheek.  Talking excitedly, the three of them walked to the garage, found Andie's car and headed toward "home."

They reached the condo a little over an hour later through rush hour traffic, and parked in the garage.  Taking the elevator up one flight, they walked into the building's reception area.  Somebody had wasted no time making some changes, Jeff and Martha noticed.  Dominic and a security guard were now surrounded by thick, bullet-proof glass, and the front desk included a bank of built-in monitors and video recorders for cameras which panned strategic spots within the condo building and on the grounds.

Smiling, Dominic greeted Jeff and Martha and identified these new faces to the guard currently on duty with him.  Pushing a button, he opened the door of the penthouse elevator for the three new arrivals, and they got aboard and were whisked upstairs.

Chris took Dom's call that Jeff, Martha and Andie were on their way up, and passed the information along to Matt and Mike, who were sitting on the couch in the den with him and Josh.  The four of them got up and went into the foyer.  The kids were out there, wearing their helmets and happily riding their bicycles around the huge hallway without need of adult supervision thanks to the newly installed training wheels.  The security guard there kept a sharp eye on the floor indicator as the elevator approached the penthouse floor.

The elevator door opened, and Matt and Mike embraced the new arrivals, hugging and kissing Jeff and Martha and Andie.  Chris stood there on his good leg, crutches in one hand.  Jeff and Martha went over to him after greeting their brothers and hugged and kissed him as well.  Chris was all smiles, ever surprised when he thought about it, that after only a few months all these people were like family to him.

"Martha and Jeff," Mike said, putting an arm around Josh's shoulders and pulling him forward, "I want to introduce our good friend, Josh Harkness.  Josh is a state trooper, and he's staying with us while we're kind of under siege here.  Josh, meet brother Jeff and sister Martha."

"Hey, Josh," Jeff said, offering his hand.  "Good to meet ya.  Thanks for being here for these guys."

"It's good to meet you, Jeff," Josh said.  "You, too, Martha," he said, shaking her hand as well.  "I've heard a lot about you both."

By then, the three kids had abandoned their bikes and were swarming all over their aunt and uncle, who kissed them soundly as Jeff picked all three of them up and danced around in circles, per usual, the boys squealing.  When he put them back down, Breakers barked once and jumped up into Jeff's arms, looking for an opportunity to give him a lick on the face.  Jeff avoided the lick, fondly kissed the top of the dog's head, and put him down.

"So, I take it David told you we were coming, huh?" Martha asked, taking Matt's hand.

"Yeppers," Matt said.  "He stopped in last night and had dinner with us.  I'm surprised he's not here yet tonight.  What are you guys doing here?  I thought you'd hold off coming until next weekend for the wedding."

"I have a meeting with some front office types from the Cubs organization on Wednesday," Jeff explained.  "So I said to myself, 'Self, go to Chicago.'  And Martha wasn't hard to persuade to come along, were you, Sis?"

"Nope," she said.

"Excellent!" Mike said.  "So you're staying the week?"

"If you'll have us," Martha said.

"You know better than to ask that," Matt said.  "This is gonna be great!  Stan and Lin and Mary are gonna be so happy to see you!  What about school?"

"We both talked to our profs about my interview and the upcoming wedding," Jeff said.  "None of 'em raised any objections about our missing a few classes, so here we are!"

"We'll call Mom and Dad tonight and find out when they're coming in," Mike said.  "It'll probably be next Friday afternoon sometime."

"Good deal," Jeff said.  He nodded at the bags.  "Put these in the usual bedrooms?"

"Yep," Mike said.  "Then come back.  We want to show you and Andie something."

"You got it, dude," Jeff said with a smile.  "Mart, I'll put your bag in your room."

"Thanks, Jeff," she said, heading for the den.  The boys got back on their bikes and started riding in ellipses around the perimeter of the foyer.  The watching adults praised them for how well they were doing.

"I don't think they're gonna need the training wheels for long," Matt commented.

"I think you're right," Josh said.

When Jeff came back, Mike, Matt, Chris, Josh, Jeff and Andie took the penthouse elevator down to the first floor.  Mike went over to the glass-enclosed reception desk.

"Dominic, do you have the key to the condo for sale on the floor under ours?"

"Sure do, Mike."

"Let me borrow it," Mike said.  "We pretty much know the layout, but we want to show the place to Chris and Josh and Jeff and Andie."

"Here ya go," Dominic said, passing him the key, which bore the tag of a local realtor.  The five of them entered an elevator, and in a moment were stepping out into an upstairs foyer.

"Chris and Josh, I wanted you to see this layout to get your comments on security," Mike said.  "Andie and Jeff, after you see it and think about it, you can tell me what you think of this place."

Mike opened the door of the condo which was directly under the portion of his and Matt's condo that Mike had originally purchased when he first moved to Chicago.  There were four bedrooms, one of which could be used for a den like they did upstairs, and a massive living room like Matt's and Mike's with its magnificent view of the lake and the city.  The carpets weren't in too bad shape, but Mike said that Jeff and Andie could certainly gut the place and start over if they wanted to.

"Chris," Mike said, "if Jeff and Andie like the apartment, for security reasons I thought we might close the front entrance here on this floor and put in an internal stairway to our place upstairs.  Access to this condo would then be from the penthouse only, although they'd obviously need to have a fire exit on this floor.  If that's what we want to do, I think we can use the same architect I used when we took possession of the whole penthouse floor."

"I like the idea of an internal stairway from a security standpoint," Chris said.

"Me, too," Josh agreed.  "That makes sense."

They walked through the condo, empty of furniture, with Andie checking things out closely.

"Whaddaya think, babe?" Jeff asked her when they had seen everything.  "If you like it, we better snap it up.  It won't be on the market long."

"I love it," Andie said.  "Let's go for it."

"Good deal!" Jeff said happily.  "How do I bid on it?" he asked Mike.

"You won't have to," Mike said.  "It's gonna be Matt's and my wedding present to you guys," Mike said.

Jeff looked stunned.  "What's the asking price?"

"Where are your manners, boy?" Matt said, pretending to be offended.  "You don't ask the price of a gift."

"Whatever the price is, it's too much for a gift," Andie said.

"No, it's not," Mike said.  "Mom and Dad and Martha will probably go in on it with us.  So don't worry about it.  We don't even have the place for sure yet.  Which is a good reason to go up right now and get on the phone, pronto, if you really like it."

"We like it," Andie said.  "But listen, guys, I want to make one thing clear when it comes to the new condo," she added before they left the apartment.  "The major reason Jeff and I want to live here is because we're family, and we both love all of you and everybody around you like there's no tomorrow.  So, if we get it, I don't wanna hear any bullshit down the line about 'your place' and 'our place,' ok?  That's why an internal stairway is a good idea for more reasons than security.  We're all gonna live here together, just like you always have up 'til now.  Only now we'll all have more room."

"Message received!" Mike said, drawing Andie into his arms and kissing her, followed by Matt.

"You're sure a keeper!" Matt told her.  "I don't know how you got so lucky, Jeff."

"It could be blind, stupid luck," Jeff conceded, turning serious.  "But don't be too shocked, coming from me, if I tell you I think she's really a blessing from the Lord."

Chris and Josh watched the interplay, smiling broadly.

They all took the elevator back downstairs, returned the key to Dominic, and changed elevators for the penthouse.  Upstairs, Mike got on the phone right away and called the realtor, telling the lady that he was bidding on the condo exactly what the former owners were asking.  The realtor was pleased, thinking about her hefty commission, and said she'd call him back the next week with a closing date.  Jeff and Andie were ecstatic about it, and they weren't alone.

They were all sitting in the den, talking a mile a minute before dinner when the conversation somehow turned to the aborted plans to take Josh out to a bar.  Jeff and Andie looked at each another and smiled.

"I think all you guys need a break," Andie said.  "You should follow through on your plans, and take Jeff with you, too.  Jeff, we have the whole week together, and you could stand a night out on the town with the guys.  You need to spend some time with your brothers and Josh and Chris and Stan.  Anyway, Mary and Linda and Martha and I need a good visit.  We promise not to talk about you guys too much."

"Oh, man, Jeff, do you have Andie fooled," Chris said, grinning.  "She thinks you're a responsible adult."

"I know it," Jeff said.  "Are you sure you don't mind?" he asked Andie.

"I'm sure."

Josh's face fell now that the verdict was in.

"Wipe that hangdog look off your face, buddy!" Jeff told Josh.  "Speaking from experience, you're gonna have a good time.  I sure did the last time I went out with Matt and Mike."

"I won't be able to drink alcohol if I'm carrying a weapon," Josh said.  "And either Chris or I should be packing."

"I'll stick to soft drinks," Chris said.  "I'll do the carry."

"Well, all right, then," Josh said, trapped like a rat.

Just then Father David came in, casually dressed in Levi's, a T, and white sneakers.

"Ah, ha, another potential barhopper!" Matt said.  "Martha, what's the verdict on David going with us?"

Martha smiled and gave him a thumbs-up.  David went over to her and hugged and kissed her.  They looked into one another's eyes, smiling.

"The barhopping is back on, I take it," the priest said to Matt.

"You take it correctly," Matt replied.

Dinner was loud and festive, despite the clouds of incipient war hanging over the country, and the fears of the family for their own day-to-day security.  Mary Bradford had fixed breaded catfish, beets and spaetzels along with a salad.  The adults drank a nice, lightly chilled Chardonnay with their meal and the boys had milk.  Everything must have tasted good, because once again there were no leftovers.

Mike fixed his eyes on his partner across the table as they were finishing their meal.  "Matt, I think you better give Arnie Watkins a call and see if he's in town and if he's going out tonight.  If we run into him at 'Scoes or someplace, there'll be hell to pay if we didn't try get in touch."

"How can one man, a mere mortal, be so right so often?" Matt kidded his partner with a grin.  "Oh, that's right, I forgot.  You're on the fast track to doctorhood.  That's the next best thing to sainthood, right, Father?"

The priest held up his hands defensively.  "Don't get me involved in your little scuffle, here.  I'm officially neutral."

Martha and David cleaned up the dining room and filled the dishwasher with dirty dishes.  By the time they returned to the den, Matt was on the phone to Arnie, and Josh, Chris and the three little boys were back playing their board game on the floor in front of the fireplace.  Mary Bradford went to her room to write some letters.

"All right, we'll see you about 10:30 at 'Scoes, dude!" Matt said into the phone as he finished his conversation.  "It'll be good to see ya, Arnie.  Laters."

Then he and Mike went back to their room to get in a little study time before they were ready to go out on the town.

A half-hour later the three kids had finished royally whipping the asses of the two cops, who begged off starting another game and joined Martha and David on the couch across from Andie, Jeff, Stan and Linda, sitting in easy chairs around the big coffee table.

"Father David?" Chris said when he sat down.


"Do you feel uncomfortable at all, as a priest, going out to hang at a bar with us?" Chris asked.

"Not really, Chris.  I'm sure you won't believe this, but when I was in college, I was known to go into a bar or two in good ol' Bloomington, Indiana, from time to time.  In fact, a few bartenders even knew me by my first name.  As for going out now that I'm a priest, you have to remember that Jesus always hung with people that religious leaders of his day held in low esteem--people who didn't appear to be all that religious.  In fact, those religious leaders despised the common people, and were always criticizing him for surrounding himself with those who weren't 'good.'  I think you could make a case that clergy today spend entirely too much time with people who are 'good' and not nearly enough with those who really need them and their message and example.  I always try to remember what he said--'I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.'

"That's interesting," Chris said.

"We're obviously going out tonight to party and enjoy one another's company," David continued, "but Jesus always liked a good party, too.  You remember the party at the wedding in Cana, where he miraculously turned water into wine?  There's no doubt that he and everyone else had a very good time that night.

"Don't get me wrong.  I might worry about the quality of my ministry if I spent most of my leisure time in bars, because that would probably mean that I was abusing the freedom we all have in Jesus Christ for my own purposes.  Anything in life can be taken to an extreme, y'know, and that's usually hurtful.  But I don't think I'm doing that.  So I'm really looking forward to going out with you guys tonight."

"I get it," Chris said, and looked at Josh.  "You see why I admire this man so much?"


"Well, speaking of sinners, you sure picked the right group to hang with," Stan told the priest.  "They're all a little 'iffy' in one way or another, in my humble opinion."

Amid general laughter, Chris picked up a small pillow and pegged it at Stan, hitting him in the face.

"I rest my case," Stan said, throwing the pillow back at Chris.

"Now, boys, control your testosterone," Linda said, getting up and going over to the entertainment center.  She looked through some CD's, and put a new disk by Norah Jones into the player.  They all mellowed out and talked for awhile, and then Fr. David and Martha went into the living room to look out at the lake, sitting down eventually to talk by themselves.

Matt and Mike drifted back into the den about 10 p.m., and most of the guys hit the bathroom before putting on their jackets.  Going to his bedroom, Chris got his shield and his weapon, checking the clip and the safety before buttoning his gun into an inside pocket.  As they prepared to leave, David kissed Martha, Stan kissed Linda, Jeff kissed Andie, and Chris grabbed Josh and planted a big one right on his cheek.

"Oops, sorry," Chris said when everyone laughed.  "I got carried away with all the kissing, and forgot you're coming with us," he told Josh, whose face had turned bright red.

"Don't forget to walk Breakers, ladies," Mike mentioned to Andie and Martha.  "And take security with you when you do."  They said they would.  "And Mart, will you sleep in Matt's and my room until we get home so someone's near the kids?" Mike added.  "As an inducement, I put fresh sheets on the bed."

"Well, as long as there are fresh sheets on the bed, then, okay," Martha said, smiling.  "You guys have a good time."

The men rode the elevator downstairs, and having decided to take Mike's Blazer, clambered aboard.  Stan, who weighed the least, had to sit on Chris' lap in the back seat in order for them all to fit.

"No touching," Stan told Chris.

"Hmmm.  I never noticed before," Chris said.  "You're kinda cute, Stan."

"What's gotten into you tonight, Chris?" Matt asked, turning around to look into the back seat.

"Just getting into the proper frame of mind for Roscoe's," Chris said, bouncing Stan a little bit on his knees.

Stan reached down and fondled Chris' good leg.

"Primo!" he said.

The rest of the ride continued in that vein, with everybody in an exuberant mood by the time they arrived at their destination.  They parked the Blazer and went into the bar.

Matt gave the straight guys his usual speech after they found a place to sit together.  "Listen up!  If somebody gropes you when this place really gets revved up, for gosh sakes, don't hit 'em!  It's not polite for a stranger to feel you up, but everybody in here thinks everybody's gay, so just be cool and roll with it."

Matt vowed to himself to stick close to Josh, even when he went to the bathroom, so that the guy didn't get hit on too badly and have a bad experience with the gay scene on his first night out.  A waiter came, and they all ordered their first round of alcoholic drinks except for Chris, who asked for a lime and tonic.

The place really began to get busy about 11 p.m., and Arnie Watkins came in.  The guy looked fantastic, wearing an Abercrombie T and brown cargoes, all filled out in the right places, his cocoa skin glowing.  Matt and Mike and Jeff were glad to see him, and stood up and hugged and kissed the new arrival.  Matt then introduced him to Stan, Josh, Chris and David, who shook his hand.

"Where'd you find all these handsome dudes?" Arnie asked Mike.  "Are they your harem, or what?"

"What else?" Mike responded, laughing.

"Jeff, you're lookin' good, man," Arnie said.  "Remember, I get a dance tonight."

"You got it, Arn," Jeff said.  He wasn't the shy teenager anymore, a straight boy who'd once been leery about dancing with another guy.  Josh looked at Jeff, his eyes big as saucers.

"What?" Jeff asked Josh.

"You're straight.  I don't get it."

Jeff smiled.  "I know what I am, and Arnie knows what he is, so what the hey?!  We're just gonna dance, dude, not fuck!"

"I'm sorry.  I didn't mean to piss you off.  I'm still trying to figure things out."

"You didn't piss me off.  We're cool."

Arnie had been staring at Father David, knowing he had seen him before, but not knowing where.  When he finally made the connection, his mouth dropped open.

"David, I know where I've seen you before. You married Matt and Mike.  In church.  You're a priest!"

"You found me out, Arnie.  Don't blow my cover, ok?" David said, laughing.

"Are you...?"

"No, I'm not gay.  We're just all out together having a good time."

Arnie turned to Matt and Mike.  "What kind of mojo do you guys have to get your straight priest to come to 'Scoes?"

"We told him you'd be here, and that you're ripe for conversion," Matt said, grinning his ass off.  "He wasn't gonna pass up this opportunity."

"Oh, no," Arnie said.  "I'm a 'washed clean in the blood of the Lamb' Baptist, and that's what I'm gonna stay."

"So you say," Matt said.  "He's gonna get you drunk and say a few words over you, and presto, you're an Episcopalian.  You won't even remember what a Baptist is."

"My knees ain't limber enough to be an Episcopalian.  Jeff, take me away from all this, dude," Arnie said flamboyantly.

Jeff laughed, put down his drink, and stood up.  "Common, let's have our dance.  A nice, slow dance before things get too raucous."

Arnie and Jeff went out on the dance floor, put their arms around each other, and started swaying and moving their feet.  Josh watched them for awhile, and looking confused, caught Matt's eye.  Then he just started laughing to himself and shaking his head.

"I don't know shit about human beings, y'know," he told Matt, who started laughing, too.

"I'll explain it all to you tomorrow.  That's if I'm capable of putting two thoughts together after tonight."

They both watched Jeff and Arnie as the two of them found their groove out on the dance floor and got into it.  Pretty soon Matt and Mike were out there with them.

The gang just kept drinking, dancing, and talking, except that Chris didn't drink any alcohol, and they all had themselves a great old time, so good that they didn't even want to leave and move on to another bar.  The place was jumping, and the handsome men sitting at the Bromans' table didn't go unnoticed by the crowd.  Guys were drifting by them accidentally on purpose all night, and some even asked various members of the group to dance.  But except for Arnie, they all turned down any strangers and only danced with one another.  They were always polite, though, when they turned somebody down.  Matt even made Josh dance with him, but Josh just couldn't loosen up much.

By last call, other than Chris and David, who had started slowing down on his drinks earlier, everybody in their group was drunk as a skunk and glad of it.

When it was time to go, Chris went out on his crutches and poured Arnie Watkins into a cab.  Then he went and retrieved the Blazer, thankful that it had an automatic transmission so he could drive it with his one good leg, and brought the vehicle back to the front door of Roscoe's.  He had to laugh as he watched David trying to help the guys and the guys try to help each other out to the curb and into the car.  It was like something out of a circus.  The Broman apartment was going to be hangover city the next morning, he knew that for sure.

Chris drove back to the condo, and he and David managed to get everybody upstairs to the penthouse and into their beds without anyone falling down, leaving them clothed except for their shoes.  Chris didn't want Father David to drive home even though the man didn't seem to be drunk, so he made up a bed for the priest on the couch in the den.

Soon it was "lights out," literally and figuratively, for the male population of the condo.  Their outing qualified as an extremely memorable night out on the town.  Memorable, that is, provided they would be able to remember any of it the next day.

*  *  *

The Bromans were not the only ones who were interested in expanding their living quarters.  Tired of living on the cheap in various homeless shelters around the city, Neil Anderson had been watching the newspapers for proffered leases on apartments on Sheridan Road anywhere near the Bromans' condo.  When he saw an ad to sub-let an apartment in the building directly across the street from Matt's and Mike's place, he used part of the $10 thousand dollars he had acquired in the Evanston bank robbery to enter into a three-month lease on the place.  The original lessees were not averse to accepting the cash Anderson proffered.  Neil also bought a good pair of binoculars, knowing that they would tell him more about the Bromans' lifestyle and their movements than anything else.

Being on the run was taxing, even for a psychopath like the Weasel.  He was dogged by the constant fear of being recognized, and his anxiety had predictably seeped into his very bones.  Anderson, who cared nothing about positive social contacts, was definitely on edge about remaining free long enough to achieve his goal, his obsession, of killing Matt Broman and as many family members as he could manage.  If he could somehow nail the old man, Justice Broman, too, that would be icing on the cake.  He had resolved to kill himself when his mission was completed rather than face jail again, and probable execution.

Anderson had gone into a local post office branch a few days ago to see if his picture was posted.  It was.  He had decided right then and there to start letting his beard grow, and in its current stage of growth, it certainly didn't enhance his appearance.  But it did start to change his appearance somewhat, and that's what it was all about.  The facial hair aggravated his unfortunate skin condition, but the irritation was worth it, he told himself.

It bothered the Weasel that there were apparently police officers living with the Bromans.  There was an Illinois State Police squad car parked out in front of the damn building every damn night.  The security guards also were a challenge in their own way.  They generally weren't as well trained as the cops, and might therefore do something unexpected, like shooting first and asking questions later.  In his hierarchy of hatred, Anderson put cops and security people and prison guards at the top, just under Matt Broman himself.

*  *  *

The next morning, Saturday, Father Rohm was at the Rectory in his study putting the finishing touches on his homily for Sunday.  Sometimes he liked to work there instead of in his office at St. Stephen's.  The telephone rang, and he answered it.

"St. Stephen's Rectory," he said.

"Father Rohm?" a vaguely familiar voice inquired.


"This is Ron Evans.  How are you, sir?"

"I'm well, Mr. Evans, thank you.  Do you have news?"

"Well, let's just say this is an interim report.  I'm in San Francisco right now, and we know that your son Curt is living here in the city somewhere."

"He's alive?"  The priest's voice cracked.

"Yes, sir, he is.  And he's here.  We just don't know exactly where yet."

"You'll let me know?"

"As soon as we know, you'll know, Father."

"I can't begin to thank you enough, Mr. Evans.  This is wonderful news!"

"I'll be in touch."  The phone went dead, and the priest put down the phone.   He began to weep there at his desk.

That was the state Mrs. Rohm found him in when she came in a few minutes later.

"Curt?  What...?"

"He's alive, Alicia.  Curt is alive in San Francisco."

© 2003 Don Hanratty

Thank you, as always, for all your emails of support for WIO.  I'm happy that this story, although completely fictional, has had positive effects on the lives of some of its readers, according to their emails.  That's a substantial bonus for an author, because we write, at least in some part, to connect at an emotional level with readers.  That we ourselves receive pleasure in the process of writing is in itself a gift.

The next segment will describe Stan and Linda's wedding, Matt and Mike get their gun carry permits and start practicing at the firing range, Chris will get his casts off and start functioning fully again, the Weasel will send Matt a note in the mail, and Fr. Rohm will ask Matt and David to go to San Francisco to talk with his son before going out there himself.

Thanks to ChicagoEric for proofing.  Peace.  DH