by Richard Hunter
Deputy Chief Randall had assigned Kevin Parker to contact the mother of the missing boy and gather as much information as possible. He was the youngest detective on the force but was especially qualified for this assignment as he had spent two and a half years in divinity school before deciding that being a minister was not the path he really wanted to follow. That special training would assure that he could be comforting and sympathetic where necessary whereas a hardboiled detective would likely be too gruff.
The deputy chief had also realized that because this young detective was only twenty four years old, he would seem less conspicuous in making inquiries at the high school. Particularly since everyone teased him about still looking like a teenager.
It wasn’t important that Parker have a lot of experience with homicide investigations. That was not his usual assignment. But he could ask questions, gather information, and then turn it over to Abbott, the lead homicide detective assigned to this case.
Parker had performed his required assignment, returned to the station and turned over his information to Abbott, who in turn consulted with the deputy chief. Randall had then taken Abbott and Parker in tow to Sterling’s office to fill the chief in on what they had learned.
“As far as Mrs. Reynolds is currently aware, we’re following up on this as a missing person. We’ve assured her that we are making this a high priority, because of her son’s age, but we won’t be able to keep up this charade for long. The news is probably already reporting a dead body at the beach and it won’t take them long to find out that it was a teenaged boy. You know how they are and there were enough witnesses at the beach that they’ll probably have the information in time for the five o’clock news tonight. Once the mother hears that, she’s going to put two and two together and start screaming because we didn’t let her know.”
Sterling leaned back in his chair, drumming his fingers thoughtfully on the padded arms. “We need to get back to her no later than four. If the coroner can give you a fair approximation of this boys height, age and other identifying characteristics before then, do it as soon as you have enough information to feel confident that the dead boy is the Reynolds boy. If not, we need to at least let her know it’s a possibility by four and escort her to the morgue to see if she is able to identify the body as her son. I don’t want anything about this case to smack of concealment or cover up or insensitivity.”
Randall nodded in agreement. “I brought Abbott and Parker with me so that they can fill in any gaps in the information as I know it at the moment.” Randall paused, taking a deep breath that clued Sterling in to the fact that the news was unpleasant.
“Parker spoke with certain school administrators and discovered that Christopher Reynolds was a member of the school swim team. The principal, Mark Gray, was uncomfortable talking about the boy until Parker confided in him about why we are so concerned.” His eyes glanced at Sterling testing for a reaction. “I know you wanted this kept quiet but Parker felt it was the only way he was going to get Gray to open up, and I agree.”
Sterling nodded. “As long as Gray was made to understand that this cannot be mentioned or discussed with anyone until we authorize a release of the information.”
Parker chimed in. “Absolutely, Chief. I may have overstressed that a bit.”
Randall smiled, understanding the implication. “Gray told Parker that the Reynolds boy had been going to a private school but was expelled because he was disruptive. Not in the usual behavioral sense but because he was openly gay and seemed to like the other boys in the school a little too much.”
Sterling’s eyes widened, reflecting his understanding of where Randall was going with this information.
“Anyway, Gray had heard from some of the teachers that although the Reynolds boy was a good student and never caused any trouble, he had the same reputation around Laguna Shores High and there were a number of cruel jokes floating around that were at his expense. Not out of any maliciousness because the boy was gay but because he was aggressive and seemed to enjoy hitting on other boys regardless of whether they were gay or straight.”
Sterling looked at Parker. “Did Mrs. Reynolds say anything that might have led you to believe that she was aware of her son’s sexual orientation. Did she mention the private school? Did she give you a list of his friends?”
“She was distraught, Chief, and I don’t think she was thinking clearly. But, wouldn’t she have to know why the private school expelled the kid?”
“Perhaps. What about friends?”
“She only mentioned two boys that Christopher had mentioned to her. One was a freshman by the name of...” Parker flipped open his pocket notebook and referred to his notes, “...Greg Lake. The other was a junior by the name of Robbie Bailey. That was all she had.”
Sterling’s chair crashed forward as he sat up in surprise. He forced his face to return to a mask of professionalism as quickly as the surprise had appeared, and nodded at Randall to continue.
“Parker asked Gray about those two boys in particular. It seems they are both on the school swim team with the Reynolds boy but they are both good students, no behavior problems. When Parker spoke with the coach of the swim team, he seemed to indicate that they were both pretty good friends with the boy. In fact, he intimated that Robbie Bailey might have been more than just good friends because of their behavior together. But then, in the past few days, it seemed that they were avoiding each other, like things had very suddenly cooled off between them.”
“Great! We’ve got a dead teenaged gay boy and the potential that the death is a lover’s quarrel gone too far. Is that what you’re telling me?”
“Not necessarily, chief. It could be nothing but we’re going to have to follow up.”
“Okay. Let’s clear the air right off the bat. I cannot have any part in this investigation as long as you have reason to suspect that Robbie Bailey could somehow be involved.” He sighed heavily. “I know the family, I was Robbie’s baseball coach when he was about twelve years old, and he thought of me as something close to a father figure at the time. If I’m anywhere near this, you won’t be able to do anything because of the screams about a cover-up. From this point on, all information about this case is to be communicated to me in written memos, at least until you’ve cleared the Bailey kid of any connection to this homicide. Your investigation is not to be discussed with me and I am to have no further input. Got it?”
Randall, Abbott and Parker all nodded in agreement. They respected Sterling for his ethical stance in the matter and knew it was the wisest possible course. The slightest hint of favoritism or interference on behalf of Robbie Bailey would taint the entire department.
Randall looked up, momentarily uncertain. “We’ll bring the Bailey kid in for an interview this afternoon. Does ‘not being involved’ mean that you don’t want to observe the interview from the viewing room?”
Sterling thought for a moment. “I guess that would be okay as long as I do not see Robbie coming or going from the station or have any input on the conduct of the interview or investigation. I guess I could watch the interview without coloring the case.”
“I’ll let you know once the boy is in the interview room.” Randall stood up, signaling to the two subordinate officers the conclusion of the meeting and they all exited the Chief’s office.
Oh, geez! Robbie. It had been a year since he had really thought about the boy. They had been extremely close when Sterling was coaching the little league team one summer. It was just after Robbie’s father had died and his mother had made him sign up for summer sports to try and take his mind off things.
Robbie had changed remarkably over that summer and had on more than one occasion hinted that Sterling could marry his mother and become his real father; which was Robbie’s way of saying that he thought of Sterling like a father.
Sterling had remained close to Robbie for another year, until just before the boy’s fourteenth birthday. Robbie’s mother had re-married and had asked Sterling to put some distance between himself and Robbie in order to allow Robbie to have a chance to build a relationship with his new stepfather. After that, he had only seen Robbie occasionally as a fellow spectator at summer little league games when he showed up to support his younger brother’s team.
Sterling couldn’t believe that he had gotten so out of touch with Robbie that he didn’t even know that he was on the swim team at school. Or, that he was gay, if he was in fact gay. This boy who had once been like a son to him and a very big part of his life had drifted a long way off. Regardless, he felt it was just not in Robbie’s makeup to be able to kill someone, anyone, especially someone he apparently knew as well as he had the Reynolds boy.
The intercom buzzed. “Chief, they deputy chief wanted you to know that the Bailey boy is in the interview room. They’ll get started in about three minutes.”
“Thanks, Shirley. Hold all calls for now until I get back.”
Sterling exited by the back door to his office directly into the main hallway and made his way down to the viewing room next to Interview 4. The room was dark in order that the glass window on the interview side would appear to be a large plate mirror. He switched on the speaker to listen to the conversation in the other room and took a seat.
Abbott entered the room a minute later. He was feeling a little nervous knowing the chief was watching and wondering how hard he could push this kid without incurring the chief’s displeasure. He decided to treat Robbie Bailey like any other person and take the chief at his word.
“Robbie, I’m detective Abbott from homicide. I’m investigating a murder and I need your assistance.” He waited a click to let that sink in and see what reaction he got from the boy.
“You’re friends with a boy named Christopher Reynolds.” He made it as a statement of fact and not a question, and continued without pause. “When was the last time you were with him?” He had intentionally phrased it as ‘with him’ rather than ‘saw him’ as a precursor of establishing their relationship, if there was one, and not giving the boy a backdoor to sneak out of.
Robbie looked more confused than anything. “Umm...well, yesterday, I guess. We have swim practice every day right after school and for two hours on Saturdays. He was there yesterday but he didn’t come to school today...or at least I didn’t see him.”
“Is swim practice the only time you see Christopher?”
“Mostly. He’s a freshman so we don’t have any classes together and he has first lunch and I have second lunch. Practice is the only thing we have together.”
“But, I’m told that you guys are somewhat close.” Abbott emphasized the word and watched for a reaction. He got it. Robbie took a sudden breath and seemed a bit shaken by the emphasis. “Christopher’s mother mentioned you and a boy by the name of Greg Lake as the only real close friends that Christopher had.” Again, he emphasized the word and got a nervous response.
Robbie’s mind was reeling. The detective kept talking about how close he was to Chris. And Chris’ mother had given his name. Did that mean that she knew Chris was gay? How could she not given how he acted. But had Chris told her that they were more than just friends or even told her about what they had done at the cove? No one was supposed to know he was gay. No one could know. It would kill his mother. She always talked so negatively about gay people. And his stepfather would beat the crap out of him and kick him out of the house. This couldn’t be happening.
“Robbie? Were you close to Christopher?”
“We....uh....we were pretty good friends I guess. I’ve only known him since the beginning of the year when he transferred in from his private school and we swam together six days a week so I guess you could say we were close. Never been to his house, though.”
Abbott looked thoughtfully at the boy. He was hiding something but was it just a fear of being outed, or a fear of being thought to be gay, or was he hiding some knowledge of what had happened to Christopher. “Look, Robbie. We can dance all day or we can lay our cards on the table and try and make some progress here. This is a murder investigation and I need total truth, nothing held back. If I suspect that you’re lying to me or trying to hide something, I’m not going to be a very nice person, okay? Now, I have information that indicates that you and Christopher were more than friends. That the two of you had a sexual relationship. We know that Christopher...” he caught himself about to say ‘was’, “...is gay. And we’ve been told that you were his boyfriend, or at least one of them. I want the truth.”
Robbie was breathing hard, clearly in a state of panic. His hands were shaking, his palms sweating. He didn’t know what to do, what to say. He was afraid of this detective, afraid of lying to him but he didn’t want to admit this.
“I...hmmm...it’s not...I’m not his boyfriend!” He took a ragged breath, clearly on the verge of breaking down in tears. “I’m gay, alright? Is that what you want me to say? I’m gay.”
“I don’t want you to say anything but the truth, Robbie.”
“I’m gay, but please don’t tell my folks. They’d freak. They’re so prejudiced.” Robbie was clearly pleading, obviously afraid of his parents finding out and Abbott couldn’t have missed that if he were blind.
“I don’t plan on telling anyone anything that I don’t absolutely have to. What about the sexual relationship you two had?” Abbott was inferring knowledge that he didn’t have but it was the best way to get the kid to come clean.
“Once! That was all. He kept teasing me and making it so obvious that he wanted to have sex with me and one day I couldn’t say no. We did it just once!”
“What happened after that?”
“He stopped teasing me. I think once he got me he was no longer interested and I sure wasn’t gonna chase him. Everyone would notice and I’d be branded. Besides, I just didn’t care that much. He was the first guy I ever did anything with and...like, I mean it felt great but I just didn’t care that much about it to want to go begging for it again.”
“Were you angry he didn’t want you anymore once he had you?”
“NO! I didn’t care. If anything, I was relieved because he wasn’t teasing me anymore. He’s too obvious when he wants a guy and it can get you some funny looks from the guys when he gets started on you.”
“Why did you give in to him at all, then?”
“Because he was so persistent. And...” Robbie lowered his voice as though ashamed, “...and he’s cute and I got really horny and wanted to know what it was like....you know, what it felt like.”
Abbott took a less aggressive posture now, feeling reasonably certain he was getting the truth from the boy. “Did he do this to a lot of guys?”
“He tried to. He told me that he had made it with every guy in the senior year of his last school. I think he was bragging or something but the way he keeps pushing.... I dunno, it could be true, I guess.”
“What about guys at your school?”
“He’s never actually told me any other guys he’s done it with. But there are a few guys on the team that he seems to like a lot and I’ve seen him trying to tease them.”
“Have any of these guys ever shown any resentment or gotten angry with him. Any of them acted hostile toward him?”
“No, actually everyone on the team kind of likes him. He gives a hundred percent to the team and we all admire that. Everyone kind of takes him like a joke.... except when he convinces us to do it with him.”
“What other guys do you think have done it with him?”
“Do I really have to snitch on my friends?”
“How do you think I found out about you?” Abbott always tried to mislead with questions rather than out and out lies. Somehow, it seemed less dishonest to him.
“Well, I’m pretty sure that he and Greg did it, probably more than once. And I think that Jonny Detman messed around with him at least, out back of the gym after school. That’s the only ones I suspect.”
“What other guys did he go after, you know, try to get with his teasing?”
“Every guy on the team!”
“And what kind of things did you do with him? Did he force you to do anything you didn’t want to do?”
“No.” It was almost inaudible, an admission that was really taking a lot out of him. “He blew me and then he jerked me off. That was it.”
“If you’re gay, why is it you didn’t do anything to him?”
“I was really nervous. I never did anything before and I didn’t really know what to do. He was in charge and I just kind of followed his lead and suddenly he was on his knees blowing me and I let him do it.”
The interview went on for another thirty minutes at the end of which Abbott said he would get someone to take him home. Robbie declined saying he would rather walk. He didn’t want to be seen in a police car by his friends or his parents because it would prompt too many questions. And he needed time to calm down before he went home or his mother would notice and start asking questions.
Detective Abbott thanked Robbie for his honesty and cooperation and again assured him that nothing would be said to anyone unless it was absolutely necessary. Robbie slumped out of the station toward home certain that life as he knew it was about to change, and not for the better.