XX. Jerry The Detective
Tuesday morning. Dan didn't
want to get out of bed at all, and Charlie was no better. After they'd
finished their lovemaking in the bathtub, they had gone to bed, where they'd
made love again. No, they were not afraid of what the new day would bring,
they were ready for anything! But they were tired! But they were also committed;
committed to their parents, to Jerry, and to themselves. So after a hearty
breakfast, Charlie and Dan again walked to school.
When they walked into the
building, there were few other students around. They realized that they
were almost a half hour early for class. No problem, Dan remarked, they
could just get to their classroom and bone up on last night's assignment.
When they got to their classroom, there was no one there. No one! Again, no problem. They went to their seats and opened their books. Nothing was prearranged, they just did what good students do: they began going over their homework assignment. They were vaguely aware of other people entering the room, but only vaguely. All was quiet and serene, and there was nothing to suggest that all was not well. Everyone, it seemed, was here for the same purpose: to make this summer term a success.
"May I have your attention!" a voice said loudly. It was the first sound either Dan or Charlie had heard since sitting down in the classroom.
"It's a few minutes early," Mr. Bell announced as everyone put away whatever they were doing, "but since everyone is here, and we quit early yesterday, I would like to start early today. We have a heavy schedule to keep, and I would be doing you a disservice if I didn't keep us on time."
Both Dan and Charlie had
expected some kind of comment or remark from the teacher. Perhaps he would
call them aside to tell them his reaction; maybe he would ask them to stay
after class. But with his opening remarks, Mr. Bell had evidently said
all he was going to say. As the day went on it became obvious that neither
of them were going to be called upon in class. He answered their questions
when asked, but Mr. Bell was very clearly going to avoid initiating any
communication with two queers. Fair enough, Charlie thought, I
can live with that. He could do a lot worse than ignore us.
End of the second day. Before dismissing the class today, Mr. Bell proposed that they skip lunch, which would mean they'd get out an hour earlier. "It seems silly for everyone to bring a lunch," he said, "since the cafeteria is not open, and then we only have one hour after lunch. If we all agree, we can simply take a short break around eleven or so, then work right through and be done shortly after one." Everyone agreed, much to the relief of Dan and Charlie.
"Things are lookin' up," Charlie commented as they walked home. "At least now we don't have to worry about dealing with the other kids at lunch time."
"Yeah," Dan said sullenly, "but being totally ignored is gonna get real old before the summer's over."
"Better that than enjoying abuse all summer. Besides, I think they'll come around after they get used to the whole thing."
"I don't think the great Mr. Bell will. I think he's totally freaked by the idea of having two open queers in his class."
"Too bad. He's just gonna
have to get over it."
The boys were in for another surprise when they got home. There sat Lisa on the front porch, chatting with Mom Edwards. "Hi, you two!" she called cheerily. "Too bad you couldn't let a person know you were staying here. And in school too!"
"Hi, Lisa," Charlie answered. "I guess things happened pretty fast. We didn't get a chance to let anyone know, really. Actually we didn't know how people would react anyway.
"Probably better than you think," Lisa observed, "especially now."
"Now?" Charlie questioned.
"I was talking with Ernie Provost last night. He told me what you did yesterday, Dan."
"What I did?"
"In school yesterday. He told me you saved his butt big time. I was just telling your mom about it. I mean, he was going on and on about how he thought all gays were wimps, but you've certainly got guts."
"I did?" Dan said in a confused tone, "I saved Ernie's butt? How?"
"Oh yeah! He said he's heard of Mr. Bell. He's from New Glasgow and is moving into this area. Evidently he doesn't take any foolishness, and would have kicked whoever made that remark right out of class, if he'd known who did it."
"He can't do that!"
"He can in summer school. The rules are completely different than regular school, and he can do whatever he likes."
"So, I guess that means he could've kicked me out."
"In a heartbeat! Ernie says he has a cousin who's had him before. This cousin says he's as fair as a teacher can be, but he's also hard as nails. So it seems you guys have made two friends in school already."
"Two?" Charlie questioned.
"Uh-huh. Ernie Provost and Mr. Bell. Ernie even said he thinks you guys are both cool!"
"Really?" Dan said with a grin. "He said that? Cool?"
"That's what he said."
"Anyway," Lisa said, "that's not why I came over. I would have come just for that, but I've got bigger fish to fry. There's another dance this Friday night at the park. Margaret and I were hoping that..."
"Gee," Dan said, "I dunno..."
"Why on earth don't you know?" Mom Edwards demanded. "You certainly enjoyed the last one."
"Mom," Dan said, "I'm gay! I've got a boy friend! That's not gonna change any time soon and I don't appreciate everyone tryin' to fix something that isn't broken. Yeah, Charlie and I love to dance. We'd love it even more if we could dance with each other, but we can't, can we?"
"I don't see why not," Lisa said. "Why don't you try? You might be pleasantly surprised. And Dan, we're not trying to "fix" you, or "turn" you, we're just trying to be friends. Margaret and I like you and Charlie, a lot! I'm not gonna lie and tell you we don't want more than friendship, but if all we can get is friendship, well, it's better than nothing."
"Dan," Charlie said, "last time, no one put any demands on us. I mean, all six of us had a great time, with no expectations. So why can't we..."
"That's another point," Dan said. "Jerry's not here. He's somewhere in Florida dealing with God only knows what, and we're up here dancing the night away? I don't think so!"
"Jer's gonna be fine, Dan. Dammit, man, he's been dealing with that garbage since he was fourteen! He'll be ok."
"Now why don't you say it and make it sound like you believe it?"
"Charlie's right," Mom Edwards said. "You can't do anything anyway, so you should have fun. It'll be good to get your mind off all your troubles. Anyway your father said he's coming home early today, so I'd better get dinner started."
"Dad went to work again today?" Dan questioned with disappointment."
"He said he might as well, with you two in school most of the day. Of course he didn't know about the new lunch arrangement. I'm sure he'll be more anxious to stay home at least in the afternoon once he learns you'll be here. But you three run along. I'm sure you can find things to do."
And find things to do they
did. Dan fired up the Lincoln, they all piled in and headed for their favorite
teen hangout. Of course a lot of their friends were gone on vacation, summer
camp, the beach, whatever; but those who were still in town were sure to
be at the downtown hangout: Miller's drug store and soda fountain. There
they could drink sodas and milk shakes, play pinball machines, or feed
the jukebox and dance, or just listen to the latest hits. Dan would never
had admitted it, but he was a little disappointed that Margaret wasn't
there. Oh well, he thought, Friday was coming, and they could dance themselves
crazy at the park.
"How was school today?" Clarke asked as they ate dinner.
"Not great, Dad," Dan answered, "but certainly better than yesterday."
"You guys make any new friends?"
"Dad," Dan said with exasperation, "we're still queers. We're not gonna make any friends!"
"That's not what Lisa said," Mom Edwards reminded him. "Tell your dad what she told us this afternoon."
"Mom, that was just one incident! It didn't mean anything."
"It meant something to me, and I think it will to your father. But if you don't want to tell him, I guess I'll have to." And she did. She told her husband proudly of the stand Dan had taken, and of Ernie's reported reaction. She didn't embellish it in any way; she didn't have to. And as expected, Clarke Edwards beamed proudly at his son.
"Sounds to me like you're gonna do just fine," Dad Edwards said.
"We'd do a lot better if we knew Jerry was ok," Dan grumbled.
"Speaking of which," Charlie said as he finished eating, "I've got some phone calls to make. I gotta call John in Daytona, and Jane in New Orleans. You want me to wait for you, Dan?"
"Why don't you call Jane
while we finish up?" Mom suggested. "You can use the phone in our room."
That was precisely what Charlie'd been hoping for. He excused himself and
headed for the upstairs phone.
It was over an hour later when Charlie finally appeared again downstairs. "Man, Charlie," Dan exclaimed, "What in the world did you tell her, the entire history of Canada?"
"We had a lot to talk about, Dan," Charlie said evasively.
"I'll tell ya later. Want to call John now?"
"You do it. Dad wants to talk to me about something, then I'm gonna get a start on my homework. You can let me know if anything important happens, ok?"
Charlie thought it a bit
odd that Dan would act so nonchalant, but he reasoned that it made sense,
odd or not. He called John, but as expected, there was no word from Jerry.
He hadn't really expected any, but he'd been hoping. Then Charlie joined
Dan upstairs and attacked his homework.
"Can I ask you something?" Dan asked when they'd settled in bed.
"Course you can, Dan."
"This is... well, kinda sensitive."
"It's ok. I keep tellin' you, we're far beyond worrying about sensitive. What's on your mind?"
"It... it's my dad. He's not doin' well at all. I mean, his job... it's not goin' well at all and he's had to take a cut in pay. I offered to help him out with what little money I've got, and I was hopin' I could count on you, if you have any. He didn't want to take our money, but with all the expenses of us comin' to live here..."
"I've got a little left, an' he's welcome to it. But most of my money is in Daytona, same as yours."
"I wish Jerry had let us put it in a bank. Suppose it burned up in the fire?"
"I doubt it. That's a pretty good safe it was in. I'm assuming Jerry's got it by now. But what's up with your dad's job? I thought he was doin' really well."
"He was. But the company he works for has made some bad investments, and now they're real close to going under. Of course if they go, he goes with 'em. He invested quite a bit of his own money in the company."
"Danny," Charlie exclaimed as he propped himself up on one elbow, "that's so incredibly incredible!"
"Not really, Charlie. They're into real estate and development, all that sorta stuff, and they took a few bad risks. It happens all the..."
"No, Danny, I don't mean that. I mean, that it should happen now! It just couldn't happen at a better time!"
"I dunno how you can say that. I can't think of a worse time, with him takin' on two more sons, all of us looking to go to college in a couple years, havin' to add on the house, or get a bigger one..."
"But... Danny, that's what I was gonna tell you! It's Jane! That's what I was talking with her about for so long! She's looking for a manager for her whole southeast operation! She's looking for someone exactly like your dad, only this is big, man! I mean, REALLY big! I'm talking millions of dollars worth of office buildings and shopping centers, new malls in some of the larger cities. She offered the job to me when I was in New Orleans, but it's too much. I wouldn't know where to start. She offered to train me, but she needs someone now! She says the man she's got now is good, but he's stealing her blind. I could never just walk in and do that job, but your dad! He's already doin' it! He's got a law degree, a business degree, I mean, shit, that's exactly what he does now!"
"Yeah, I know. It means moving back to the States. We could probably live most anywhere we wanted to, according to Jane. Man, I had no idea his job was drying up! Jane asked me if he'd be interested, and I told her I didn't think so. I've got to call her!"
"Wait, Charlie. Let me talk to Dad first, ok? I'll think up some excuse to take him off somewhere tomorrow after school. He's lived here all his life, and gettin' him to move south isn't gonna be easy. How much is Jane willing to pay, did she say?"
"A fuckin' fortune, Dan! For the right person, she said she'd pay a fortune! And even at that she'd be saving money if the stealing stops. But what about you, Dan? I mean, you were so happy to be back here. You ok with leaving again?"
"I AM happy to be home, Charlie. And home is where Mom and Dad are. If they're in Florida or South Carolina or wherever, then that's home. I love it here, but wherever my parents are, that's home. Promise you'll let me talk to him, ok?"
"You got it, bud! Man, this is something! Now I'm gettin' real excited!"
"Well, if gettin' excited means what it usually means, forget it. I need some sleep! It's only Tuesday an' already I'm runnin' out of gas. My brain isn't used to working so hard."
"That mean I don't get a good-night kiss?" Charlie said with his very best hurt expression.
"One kiss. But please, Charlie, don't try to turn it into anything. I'm really tired!"
As it turned out, Charlie
was more tired than he'd realized. After their kiss he expected to have
a lot of trouble sleeping, but before he even had a chance to think about
it, he was out. The next thing either of them heard was the alarm at 6
"I told you not to go near that place!" Chuck Dalzell roared. "What in hell were you doing there anyway?"
"I was in MY home, getting MY property!" Jerry answered defiantly. Of course, the police had been watching the place, and as soon as Jerry showed up he'd been arrested.
"You were trespassing on a crime scene," Chuck countered. "You were on the scene of a police investigation. You could've been killed! What if the mob was watching for you and not us? What in the world was so important that you had to go sneaking in there anyway?"
"I wasn't sneaking! I walked in in broad daylight. I was going in to get my safe, that's what! But it's gone. I suppose your cop friends stole it."
"We took it and put it in a safe place, along with all the other valuables we found worth salvaging. What's so important in that safe? You got something to hide in there?"
"What's in there is mine! Mine and Charlie's and Dan's. We've got money, some jewelry, a few stocks, insurance policies, car titles. Is that a crime?"
"Then you won't mind opening it for us, right?"
"Uhhh... Chuck," Jerry whispered, "is this room bugged?"
"Is anyone else watching or listening?"
"No. You know better than that! Why? What's the difference if you have nothing to hide?"
"Chuck," he said, still whispering, "I've got a box of index cards in there. There's names and addresses, you know, of people I know. I don't want it to get in the wrong hands..."
"You mean clients?"
"I dunno what you're talking about. It's just people I know."
"There could be some leads in there, Jerry."
"There's no leads in there! You know how we operate. If there was anyone in there I couldn't trust, they wouldn't be in there! They believe they can trust me too, Chuck. Please, Chuck, you know I'd tell you anything I knew if it would help! But those names..."
Chuck knew that Jerry would
protect those names with all his strength. He also knew that Jerry was
probably right: that there were no clues in the little box of index cards.
But Chuck was also rather angry with Jerry for going into that townhouse
on his own, ignoring all the warnings, the obvious risks. He wasn't about
to let Jerry off the hook too easily. He left the room, allowing Jerry
to sit there alone and stew for an hour or so.
"Ok, Danny," Clarke Edwards said as they sat on a park bench, "what's so important that you had to get me alone?"
"Dad... what're you gonna do if you lose your job? I mean, do you have any plans?"
"Not really, Dan. I'm still hoping it won't happen. It's kind of out or my hands now and up to the big wigs in Halifax. If they can liquidate enough assets to keep the whole thing going, we could just survive."
"Dad," Dan said impatiently, "I'm not a little kid any more. Please don't talk lawyer talk to me. Just tell me, ok? I think maybe I can help."
"Ok, son, that's fair. Frankly, I don't think anyone can help. As a matter of fact just today I put in a sell order for my stock in the company, for whatever I can get. It'll probably only be twenty-five cents on the dollar or so, but it's better than losing everything. As for the company, it'll be a miracle if it survives another six months."
"So, what're you gonna do?"
"Dan, don't worry about it! I'm gonna see you three boys through school and college, one way or another. I can always go into law practice."
"But you always said you would never do that! You said you hated the thoughts of a private law practice!"
"There's one thing I learned from you and Charlie, son, and that's the expression 'never say never.' Just like you guys did when you left here, I'll do what I have to do."
"What if I said I know of a job just like the one you're doing now, only bigger? What if I said I know you can get it, if you want it?"
Clarke Edwards eyed his son suspiciously. A year ago he'd have written off such talk as the irresponsible ramblings of a kid. But this kid had proven himself many times over in the past year. Clarke no longer thought of Dan as a kid, really. "I have a feeling," he said, "there's more to this than you've already said. What's on your mind, Dan?"
Dan braced himself. "It would mean leaving here," he said. "I mean, leaving Canada."
"Why don't you just tell me the whole thing? You demanded that I treat you as an adult and not humor you, so I think I have a right to ask the same of you, don't you? Danny, I know what opportunities are like here, so why don't you just lay it all out? What do you know that I don't?"
Dan told him. He felt a thrill
as they sat and talked about Clarke's career, not so much as father and
son, but as peers. To his total surprise, Dan found that his sexual orientation,
so much in everyone's mind these days, was for the moment forgotten. They
were simply two intelligent persons, comparing notes, giving each other
advice. Dan had some information that might help the other, and it was
being taken at face value and discussed intelligently.
"Charlie!" Dan called noisily as he and his dad entered the front door.
"Dan," Mom Edwards scolded, "There's no need to wake the dead! Charlie's in the back yard washing Jerry's car."
"K, thanks Mom." Crash... thump... SLAM! As Dan ran through the house, tripped over a chair leg in the kitchen, then slammed the door behind him. "Charlie!" he called, "Dan needs Jane's phone number. You got it?"
"Yeah," Charlie answered. "I was gonna call her soon as you got back."
"He says he'll call her. He said he didn't want someone else arranging a job for him. Get the number for him, ok?"
"Don't he want to wait till the rates change? A call to New Orleans on day rates is expensive."
"He wants to call now, Charlie! Will you please get the freakin' number? Now?"
"What's happening?" Charlie asked after he'd given Dad Edwards the phone number.
"Nothing yet," Dan replied. "Dad's real interested though. He wanted to call right away so he could get started checking things out. Thanks, Charlie."
"I didn't do anything. I'm
just glad he's interested. That would be so cool!"
Charlie and Dan were standing
in the Edwards kitchen; the same kitchen they'd stood in thousands of times
before. This time though it was different. This time, a wave of emotion
swept over them, took control of them. Dan's arms went around Charlie;
his went around Dan. They looked deeply into each other's eyes, and their
lips touched, then pressed together in a long, passionate kiss. They were
in their own universe again; alone, in love, in tune. There was nobody
else, nor was there any need for anyone else. Each had the other, and that
"Ok, Chuck," Jerry said in frustration, "You've been jerking me around now for a week and I'm sick of it. I want to get the Mustang out of impound. I'm heading for Canada." It was Friday afternoon, and Jerry had had enough. He'd been told repeatedly that there was nothing he could do, that he should simply stay out of sight and wait. But he had done some investigation of his own, and had come up with his own conclusions.
"Jerry," Chuck answered, "I can understand how you feel, but you've got to be patient. We're making some progress, and I hope to have a break in the case any day now."
"You're not gonna get a break, 'cause you're looking in the wrong places. I don't think the mob had anything to do with it. When I was in that townhouse, there were clothes missing. Why would the mob steal clothes? The two TV's were missing. Why would the mob steal TV's? You guys got the safe, which means the mob didn't. Why wouldn't they take that? They'd have to know that address file would be in there. And even the fire just doesn't fit their pattern. The damage was mostly smoke and water. If the mob had torched that place, there'd be nothing left! I think it was a bunch of amateurs, maybe gay bashers or something."
"All very good reasoning," Chuck agreed. "Are you ready to stake your life on it? Are you ready to gamble Charlie's life and Dan's that you're right?"
"No," Jerry answered, "I'm not. But I am ready to gamble on the fact that I've seen two punks wearing my clothes three times! I'm willing to gamble on the fact I've been to the club every night this week, and no one knows anything! They've seen the same two punks wearing my clothes. Talk about stupid! I can even give you their names. They're brothers, and they hang around that pool hall about two blocks from the club. I'm willing to bet that if you check them out, you'll find more of my clothes in their closet, if they've got a closet."
"Why won't you just relax and let us do our job?" Chuck said as he shook his head.
"Because you're not doing
it! Now will you please check out the information I've got here? I think
you'll find it's what you need. I think it's those two punks, an' it's
got nothing to do with the mob."
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