THE CASE OF THE GENTLE GYMNAST Copyright © 2005 by Jerry Leckie — A young police detective, assigned to a gay missing persons case, finds himself on a voyage of self-discovery when he begins to question his feelings for his partner.

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WARNING: My short story fiction deals with very mature subjects and with explicit language, some of which is of a sexual nature. If viewing such material is illegal where you live or if viewing such material would be offensive to you, please click on the “BACK” button of your browser NOW to return to other sections of the web.


NOTE: This story is a sequel to "The Genital Gymnast." It is not necessary for you to have read that story first, but you will more readily identify with the characters here if you do so.


Bart Killian was sweating heavily as he lay supine on the bench, pressing the heavy barbell above him. Every muscle in his well-built young body strained to make the final repetition of the set. His clear dark-brown eyes were riveted on the bar.

John Wilson stood at his head grasping the bar lightly. "Push Bart!" he commanded. "Come on, push! You can do it!" he encouraged his friend. With one final, heroic effort Bart blew a column of air through his pursed lips and fully extended his arms. John grabbed the bar and returned it to the rack. "Good show old buddy!" he whooped with joy, extending a hand to bring Bart to a standing position.

"Whoa! That was a killer!" Bart exclaimed, toweling sweat from his face and short dark hair. "I must be getting old and out of shape."

John chuckled, looking at Bart's V-shaped body. "That's a load of crap. Man, you're built like a brick outhouse." He glanced at his friend's cute baby face. "As for age, shit, I'm younger than you, but you're the one that gets carded in bars." He waived an arm at the crowded weight room. "Hell, you look like one of these college kids."

Bart and John were members of the Canyon City police department, which had an open invitation to utilize the athletic facilities of Matson University, free of charge. This had been a standing offer since Cyrus Matson founded the university at the turn of the twentieth century.

Privately, John was concerned that his buddy tended to push himself beyond required limits, in all aspects of his life. For the moment, Bart was smiling and relaxed, so he continued to banter rather than start another exercise. He nodded to a strapping youngster working with dumbbells across the way. "You look as good as that kid, any day of the week."

Bart noted the boy's physique. "Nope, he's a gymnast. I played football, so there's a difference in body mass distribution." He sighed and smiled wistfully at the kid. "I would have preferred gymnastics, but my dad insisted that I play football."

John glanced at the boy again and said, "Hey, isn't that ..." He snapped his fingers, trying to recall a name.

Bart smiled, looking at the blond haired youth with interest. "Randy Wade. Yeah, that's him. You remember him from the Wideman-Matthews case six months ago."

They made their way toward Randy. "How could I forget it," John declared grimly. "You almost got yourself killed."

Randy spotted their approach in the mirror. He smiled in recognition and put down the weights. "Bart! How you doin' man?" he said, extending his hand.

"Great Randy. It's good to see you. You remember John."

"Oh, sorry John. I didn't recognize you without your uniform," Randy blushed, shaking the man's hand.

Bart laughed. "I'm pleased to report--on John's behalf--that he has permanently shed his uniform," he announced. "He has the distinction of being the second youngest Canyon City police officer to ever be promoted to detective," he said proudly.

John blushed. "I made detective at twenty-eight," he looked pointedly at Bart, "but, who do you suppose made it at twenty-seven?"

Randy laughed. "I can only think of one person: Bart Killian."

Then, it was Bart's turn to blush. Changing the subject, he asked, "How's Joe?"

"He's great.
He's still the love of my life," Randy said easily. "And, we're settling into university work pretty well; it's really different than high school. But, so far our freshman year is going okay."

"Are you two on the university gymnastics team?" Bart asked.

Randy nodded. The Matson University athletic department specialized in track and field and gymnastics. The university was not large enough to maintain football, baseball or basketball programs.

"How are your parents?" Bart wondered.

"They're fine, but Joe and I aren't living at home. We're sharing a condo near the campus with Stella Foxworth, Joe's cousin, and Linda Smith, her girlfriend."
Randy and Joe were lovers as were Stella and Linda.

Randy snickered. "Our school work is easier than housekeeping. After the first few weeks in the condo, Joe and I couldn't figure out why our bathroom fixtures turned green then brown then black. Finally, Stel and Linda told us we had to clean them. Who knew? We're guys." he said with a laugh. Bart and John laughed along with him, having been there themselves.

Randy concluded with mock gravity, "Since we're living just across town from our parents, I'm not sure whether they wanted to get rid of us or they loved us enough to let us spread our wings."

Bart laughed. "I'm sure it was the latter. I remember how much your parents love you." He checked his watch. "We'd better be going. I'm taking Detective Wilson out for dinner tonight to celebrate his promotion," he said, smiling fondly at his friend. "It's been a pleasure seeing you again Randy."

As the two officers showered and changed, John asked, tentatively, "Is Elizabeth upset that you're taking me out to dinner?"

"No, she's cool," Bart said casually. "She understands that it's 'boys night out.'"

John sighed. Bart and Elizabeth had been dating exclusively for two years, but did not live together. Nevertheless, it seemed to John that she somehow managed to run Bart's life. She was pretty enough, but possessed a personality trait that was commonly called "high maintenance" among men who dated such women. He wondered if it was her influence that caused Bart to push himself so hard to succeed in everything he did.

That night, Bart spared no expense for his friend. Their table in The Epicure, the restaurant in the Hotel Eureka, in downtown Canyon City, reflected understated elegance. The food was superb, the presentation was beautiful, and the service was so efficient that it was almost invisible. And, their table conversation was companionable, befitting the occasion.

However, as they waited for the desert course, talk lagged and Bart's mind wandered to some other happy place. "Penny for them," John submitted.

Bart's eyes refocused on his friend. "Ah, excuse me for drifting off. Seeing Randy again this afternoon got me to thinking about the Wade family. I was only in their home once, but it left a lasting impression, of how loving they are, how respectful they are of each other ... how freely they give their affection. Heck, you were there with me. Remember?"

"Yeah. It was the same among Randy and Joe's friends too." He sighed. "It must be nice. I wasn't raised in that kind of home."

Bart grimaced. "I wasn't either." He smiled and shook his head. "But we're here to celebrate. This is not the night for depressing talk."

He regarded his friend. The task was an altogether pleasant experience. John's soft brown hair fell lightly over his forehead, framing the angular planes of his handsome fox-like face. His light brown eyes radiated strength-of-character, intelligence and loving kindness, the necessary ingredients for the perfect cop -- and, the perfect friend.

John was a good friend, had been for the past two years. He could have been a best friend, if Bart could have made such a claim upon anyone. His heart squeezed momentarily, then he was his customary self once more. He noted that John was holding his Champaign glass aloft.

Bart picked up his glass and his friend intoned, "Here's to you, buddy. Thanks for this evening, and most of all for being my friend." He took a sip from his glass. "Just remember that I'm always here for you."

Friday morning, a week later, Bart was called into the Capitan's office and handed a new assignment. After several minutes, he emerged and signaled John for a conference. "I have a new case," he announced. "Missing person at Matson." He checked his notes. "Student ... twenty years old ... hasn't been to class in four days ... reported by the university ... no one at his dorm has seen him ... parents haven't heard from him."

He smiled up at John. "And guess what? You're my partner." John beamed happily at being paired with Bart on his first assignment as a detective.


Bart and John signed out an unmarked police car and drove to the university.

The Matson campus was an impressive layout, covering five hundred acres at the edge of of the city. The land had been the estate of Cyrus Matson, the most colorful character in that part of Missouri during and after the American Civil War. He founded the township of Canyon City as well as Grant County. Old Cyrus was a staunch capitalist and rabid abolitionist. A legend from those times states that he operated a division of the Underground Railroad, ferrying runaway slaves from the state.

When Cyrus died in 1901, his will established Matson University and endowed it in perpetuity. It was his desire that the school serve the minds and bodies of the brightest youth of the state, always striving for quality over quantity. For over a hundred years, the trustees had bent to the task of fulfilling his desire.

Bart and John turned off of the main road and entered the property. The sight of the campus never failed to impress. Built on a gently rolling landscape, the school was a series of two and three-story buildings of brick and stone, nestled among mature trees and well kept grounds. It was fall and the short days and low temperatures were turning the leaves of the deciduous trees bright yellow and gold, in sharp contrast to the evergreens.

The detectives parked at the administration building, formerly the hundred-room manor house of Cyrus Matson's estate. There, they interviewed several administrators, gathering factual information about Brandon Johnson, the missing student, a copy of his college transcript, and the name, address and telephone number of his parents.

They learned that Johnson was an excellent student. He was in his second year at the university, majoring in art. He was also an accomplished athlete, a gymnast, attending the school on an athletic scholarship. His near-perfect attendance record for his classes indicated that his current absence was unusual.

The next stop was the boy's dormitory. They interviewed a half dozen of Johnson's neighbors. Each reported that Brandon was even tempered, courteous, and helpful -- but not social. It seemed that he went to class, worked on school projects, went to gymnastics practice and studied. They never saw him at school social functions. He was a nice guy, but a loner.

His room was neat and precise. There were no pictures or posters. No radio, no TV, no telephone, no frills at all. The bed was made. The closet held a modest collection of clothes and two empty suitcases.
A textbook lay open on the desk next to a laptop computer. His backpack held various notebooks as well as a calendar with his class and athletic schedule for the current week. Drawing pads contained a variety of still life, landscape and portrait sketches and paintings. 

After an hour's search, John said, "No sign of violence. Nothing seems to be missing. If he just took off for parts unknown, all he took with him was his wallet and pocket change. What do you make of this room?"

Bart sighed. "At first glance, it appears to belong to an obsessive-compulsive personality. The fingerprint guys say that the only prints in the room were his. In a college dorm room? Can you imagine that? The kid had no social life.
Someone of that ilk wouldn't go away without warning."

"Maybe he just got tired of living like that," John offered.

Bart replied, "Well, something happened to cause a drastic change. We gotta find out what that was. He didn't leave a diary, so lets take the computer. There may be a clue on the hard drive. Oh, and lets take the sketch pads too."

As they were leaving, they met Joe Foxworth, Randy Wade's lover. They exchanged warm greetings, then Bart asked, "What brings you here Joe?"

"I'm a reporter for the school newspaper--I'm a journalism major ya know--so I'm gathering material for a story on Brandon Johnson's disappearance."

With a wry grin, Bart said, "What a coincidence. We're here for the same reason."

This provoked a volley of questions from Joe. Bart and John outlined everything they had discovered so far. Bart concluded with, "We've seen no evidence of criminal activity, but Johnson doesn't seem like the type of guy that would take off with just the clothes on his back. We can't pinpoint where he was and what he was doing when he vanished because no one knows him very well."

Joe grinned. "I know someone that knows him very well."

"Who?" Bart and John said at the same time.

"My cousin Stella."


Joe seated the detectives in the living room of his condo and disappeared into another part of the house. He returned a few moments later with an easel and an artist's canvas, which he set up in one corner of the room. The canvas was an oil painting of Brandon Johnson.

Bart flipped through his information folder until he found the school picture of Johnson, a head shot of a blue-eyed youth whose comely face was framed by golden blond curls. But the painting was something else. It portrayed a solemn young man of admirable physique, dressed in the school's gymnast uniform, relaxing against a pommel horse.

The men rose and slowly approached the painting, as if by magnetic force. True, it showed the body of a young man in the prime of life, his strength and his power. But there was more. The details of the boy's face and his body language opened a window to his soul.

John was particularly affected. He placed a hand on the edge of the portrait and murmured, "Gentle." Neither Bart nor Joe responded, but observed him carefully. John continued, as if absorbing the base qualities of Brandon's personality. "He's gentle and loving. He has so much affection to give." He smoothed his fingers across the painting. "
But it's trapped inside him."

"That's exactly what I saw." The three men whirled around to see Stella coming out of the dining room wiping her hands on a dish towel. She smiled at them. "I thought I heard voices in here."

Joe introduced her to the detectives. She regarded John for a moment, then said, "I'll take your comments as a compliment. They were exactly what I saw in Brandon, and I apparently got them down on the canvas."

John stared at the portrait. "He's a remarkable guy. Straightforward, yet complex." He shook his head. "Interesting."

Bart asked, "Stella, when did you paint this?"

"Several weeks ago, in art class. Brandon is in the class too, but agreed to be a model for the rest of us."

"You brought out certain of his qualities that you saw. How did the rest of your classmates see him?" Bart wondered.

Stella shook her head. "Don't know. I didn't see the other students' work."

Perhaps you can answer this," Bart posed, "would you say that he has an obsessive-compulsive personality?"

Randy and Linda chose that moment to bounce through the front door demanding lunch. Stella announced that it was on the table and herded everyone into the dining room, including the detectives. Naturally, the disappearance of Brandon Johnson was the main topic of conversation. Stella, Randy and Joe agreed that he was not compulsive, simply deliberate in everything he did. They speculated that he had been schooled in this behavior all his life. Now, it was habit.

Bart turned to Joe and Randy. "How does he perform in gymnastics?"

Joe answered, "He's not an Olympic gymnast, but he's very good. He knows what his body can do and he does it. He's steady and reliable."

"How does he behave with the rest of the team?" John wondered.

"He gets along with everyone," Joe commented. "He's polite, even tempered and generous with his praise for the other guys when they do well."

"We haven't been describing a guy who would disappear without notice, have we?" Randy asked.

Bart looked pointedly at him. "Maybe he didn't go of his own free will."


That night, in bed, Joe lay on his side, lightly stroking Randy's chest as they talked. Randy murmured, "I can't get over that haunted look in Brandon's eyes in the portrait. I didn't notice it until you guys pointed it out."

"Haunted," Joe tested the word. "I don't think that adjective was used ... but yeah ... the look is there." He bestowed a sweet kiss on Randy's lips. "I remember seeing that look in your eyes when I first met you."

Randy pulled his lover down for another kiss, then said softly, "I was looking for something--I didn't know what it was--then you kissed me for the first time, and I found it." He smiled into the boy's eyes. "And now, I'm the happiest guy on Earth."

"No, you're the second happiest guy on Earth."

Randy pulled Joe on top of him. "Don't argue with me dude, or I might have to make love to you all night."

Grinning, Joe responded, "Like I said, you're the second ... "

Randy clamped his lips to Joe's and rolled on top of the boy. The kiss was long and loving and tender, expressing the deep affection and respect he felt for his mate, his life partner. When Randy pulled back, they were breathless and very aroused.

Joe wheezed, "Oh man, you found it ... you found what you were looking for ... don't ever loose it. I want to live like this with you forever." He rolled Randy onto his back and showered his face, neck and chest with kisses while he slowly manipulated the boy's enormous erection.

When Randy could stand the stimulation no more, he reversed their positions and began kissing and nibbling at Joe's ear. He whispered, "What I was looking for was love Joe. And I found it with you. I'll never loose it because I'm yours for all time."

"Oooo," Joe exclaimed as Randy began to fondle his erection. "Oh Randy, I'm so close."

"Me too." He turned in the bed and they each took the other's manhood into their mouths. In mere minutes, their bodies shuddered in ecstasy and they gave up their seed.

Randy turned in the bed once again, gathering the love of his life into his arms. After another tender kiss, he pulled Joe's head down into the hollow of his shoulder and wrapped protective arms around him. "I love you so much Joe. I wish everyone was as happy as I am with you."

Joe luxuriated in Randy's comforting arms. Just before he drifted off to sleep, he murmured, "I wonder if Bart is happy. The next time you catch him in an unguarded minute, watch him. He has that haunted look in his eyes too."

At that moment, Bart was in bed, in his apartment, making love to Elizabeth.

The next morning, John parked in front of Bart's residence and checked his watch: 7:30 am. Bart answered his knock, fully dressed, with a coffee mug in his hand. He led his partner back to the kitchen and filled a second mug. Elizabeth entered, dressed in a silk house robe, but she was perfectly coiffed and made up. She greeted John and sat at the kitchen table. Bart poured a cup of coffee and set it before her.

They exchanged pleasantries for a few moments, then Bart kissed her on the forehead and bid her good bye. She smiled up at him and said, "I'm going to mother's for the weekend. Won't be back until late Sunday night. I'll drop in and say 'hi' to your dad while I'm there. Oh, and on the way out of town, I'll drop your brown suit off to have it cleaned. You're beginning to look like the stereotypical rumpled detective." Bart smiled in response as he and John walked out the door.

On the way to police headquarters, John brought Bart up to the minute regarding the case. "Late yesterday, Johnson's parents wired money to the university to have fliers printed. The chancellor agreed to provide an army of students to distribute them this morning. It's Saturday, so he should have a good turnout. He's also promised more students to help conduct the search. The Grant County Search and Rescue team is setting up a command post on the campus as we speak. According to the leader, they plan to fan out and search within a five mile radius. And that's some pretty wild terrain, particularly the woods on three sides of the campus."

"Sounds good. How late did you stay at your desk last night?"

"Until about nine."

"I'm sorry you had to do that. I tried to get out of my date with Beth, but she got a burr up her butt about it, so it was easier just to go along with her." John sighed as they pulled into the police parking lot.

They settled into Bart's office to review the material they had collected so far. John plugged in Brandon Johnson's laptop and breathed a sigh of relief that the boy did not have it password protected. Meanwhile, Bart began flipping through the student's sketch pads.

Over the course of the next two hours, their labors were interrupted by several phone calls. The fliers were going up by the hundreds all over town. Search and Rescue reported in every thirty minutes.

John stretched and twisted his neck to work the kinks out. "All of the text files have to do with Johnson's school work." He paused and looked at Bart. "Ya know, there aren't any games on the hard drive. I checked the Internet history file. He never went to any entertainment sites.
The kid didn't seem to do anything for fun."

Bart smirked. "What, no porn sites?" John blushed crimson and his partner laughed. "So I shouldn't check the history file on your computer, huh?" He buried his face in the sketch pads and murmured, "You wouldn't want to check the history on my computer either."

John didn't know how to respond to that and kept silent. Bart changed the subject. "This is curious." He flipped open two of the pads to selected pages. "
Johnson is a good artist. Look at his still life and landscape work." He pointed to a water color of a vase of flowers. "You can almost smell those flowers." Then, he pointed to a painting of a stone church. "Look at the ivy growing on the church walls. You want to reach out and feel the leaves."

He opened a third pad of life drawings. "
But, look at this. These aren't very good, and none of them are in color. The talent is there, but he seems to have trouble drawing people." Shaking his head and mumbling to himself, he continued to study the drawings.

A few minutes later, John spoke, shaking his head in wonder. "The kid only ever sent e-mail to one address. Looks like it was to his parents." He consulted a calendar. "He wrote to them every Sunday evening."

John began reading the e-mail files. "Hm, he wrote the same stuff week after week: Stuff about his classes, his gymnastics, that he always went to church." He skipped down in time to the previous month. "Hm, this is different. He's telling them about a guy he met in art class." He began scanning the e-mails rapidly. "He's becoming really friendly with this guy. Says the boy really understands him ... painted a portrait of him."

He had Bart's full attention now. "Does he name the kid?" John shook his head and Bart shoved the pad of life drawings at him. "Flip through these pages. As bad as they are, it looks to me that all of the drawings are of the same person, a boy. We gotta find him."
Bart called the art instructor and outlined a plan to visit the class on Monday.


By Monday, progress on the case was not encouraging. No one had responded to the fliers and the search had been fruitless. Nevertheless, Bart and John were keen with anticipation as they drove to the campus.

"Did Elizabeth get back from Jefferson City okay?" John ventured.

Bart nodded. "I spoke to her on the phone this morning."

"I didn't realize that she was from your home town." John said.

"Yeah, I knew her in high school." Bart sighed. "She was the only girl I ever dated that my dad approved of. Then, one day a couple of years ago she calls me up and announced that she was working in Canyon City." He grinned wryly at his friend. "Three guesses who gave her my phone number, and the first two don't count. The rest is history."

John smirked. "Hm, sounds like someone is working behind the scenes here. Bet your dad wants you and her to get married."

Bart gripped the steering wheel tightly and said through clenched teeth, "That ain't gonna happen."

Fortunately, they pulled into the school parking lot at that moment. The art class had been under way for about ten minutes when they entered the room. The instructor introduced them and Bart quickly summarized their reason for being there, asking to see each student's painting of the missing boy.

As Bart was speaking, John quickly scanned the faces of the class. There were six male students, but he immediately spotted the boy they were probably after. He was a handsome young man, tall, with blue-black hair, olive complexion and Asian looking eyes. But, at the moment, he wore a sad and somewhat frightened expression.

They slowly made their way around the class, introducing themselves and respectfully observing the students' work. Each canvas displayed the same handsome boy, most of which only brought out the physical aspects of the subject. They winked at Stella while pausing to gaze at her canvas. Their second look at it elicited the same sense of gentleness and longing that they had first seen.

At last, they arrived at the boy in question. He introduced himself as Ed Tekai. As they turned to his painting, their breaths caught in their throats. The portrait was magnificent. It was as detailed as Stella's, but brought out very different qualities. Tekai was a male, and his work brought out the loving sensuality hidden in Brandon Johnson's soul. The sense was almost erotic.

When they had completed their circuit of the room, they thanked the students for their time and quietly retreated to the instructor's office. At the end of the class, the teacher asked Tekai to remain, then left the boy alone.

As Bart and John reentered the classroom, Tekai appeared to be ready to bolt and run. Bart quickly reassured him. "Mr. Tekai, we are here to gather facts regarding Mr. Johnson's disappearance. You may be able to give us some information that will lead us to discover his whereabouts."

Ed's face continued to display apprehension. John asked, "May we speak with you for a few minutes?" The boy nodded. "Your portrait of Brandon is remarkable. You have brought out qualities of his personality that the other students did not."

Fear formed in Ed's eyes. "You knew him personally, didn't you." John surmised.

Ed nodded and looked at the floor. "Yeah, it was my painting that brought us together. When Brandon saw it, he said that what I had painted was what he felt inside. He said it awakened something in him. So, we got to talking and became friends."

Bart asked carefully. "When was the last time you saw him?"

"Sunday before last, about ten o'clock in the evening. I guess it was the night he disappeared, because he didn't show up for class on Monday."

"Where did you see him last?" Bart wanted to know.

Ed blushed slightly. "Uh, my place. I live in a rooming house off campus."

John asked gently, "Did he seem distressed about anything?"

Tekai spoke more freely. "No! He was very happy. He was looking forward to the rest of the semester. He was talking about moving in with me and going home with me for the Christmas break."

Bart said, "Brandon sent an e-mail to his parents every Sunday, except for the Sunday that he disappeared. Did you know that he told them about meeting a new friend ..."

"He didn't tell them that we ...?" Ed stammered, then paused, his face a mask of raw fear.

"That you were lovers?" John supplied, softly.

Ed's eyes shifted nervously between the detectives, measuring, gaging their reaction. Bart said, "It's all right Mr. Tekai. He didn't tell them about you. And we know how to keep a secret. All we want is to find Mr. Johnson."

Ed caved in and broke into tears. He sputtered, "I thought we were lovers. Then he disappeared. So I guess he got scared and chickened out on me." Red eyed, he gained control of himself. "He was perfectly all right when he left my place that night. I don't know what happened to him. I didn't have anything to do with his disappearance."

They had no choice but to believe him, for the moment.


Monday night, Randy and Joe had left the gym after practice and were strolling hand-in-hand along the flagstone path to the main entrance of the campus. It was cold and they had donned heavy sweat pants and down-filled jackets to make the journey home.

The night was crisp and beautiful and smelled of dried leaves and fertile earth. They paused to look through the bare tree branches at the stars. Joe sighed, "Ya know what that reminds me of?"

Randy grinned. "No telling."

Joe smacked his shoulder and dragged him into the bushes. "It reminds me that I haven't had a kiss from my lover since morning." And, he planted a long wet one on his lover.

When they came up for air, Randy wheezed, "Wow! Let's get home fast. I have a present for ya."

Quickly resuming their journey, they soon entered the quadrangle in front of the main building, but stopped short at a remarkable sight. There, under a streetlight, stood a man dressed in a white robe. Otherwise, he was barefoot and had long dark hair and a long sparse beard.

"Jesus," exclaimed an astonished Joe.

"That's exactly who he looks like," Randy whispered, intrigued.

The man appeared to be confused, looking this way and that. The boys approached him cautiously. He didn't seem to notice them until they were quite near.

"Hi there, can we help you?" Randy asked.

The man flinched at the sound. He looked at them as if he couldn't believe his eyes, and reached out tentatively to touch their clothing. Convinced that they were real, he shut his eyes and began to shake, crying. He wailed, "Oh, I've made it!"

The street lamp shown brightly on the smooth skin of his face, and they realized immediately that he wasn't a man at all; he was a boy their own age, or younger. Joe placed his arm around the kid's shoulder and whispered, "Sh, there. You're okay. What's your name?"

The boy looked at him for a moment, dazed, as if trying to recall. "Richard," he said slowly. "Richard Marks," he continued, as if he had discovered something wonderful.

"Where did you come from?" Randy asked.

Richard pointed to the administration building. "There."

The boys glanced at each other skeptically. "Well then, where are you going?"

Richard's face grew pitiable. "Away." He began to sob quietly once more, and his teeth began to chatter. "It's so cold," he muttered between sobs.

Randy and Joe glanced at each other, nodded and began to lead the boy to their condo. There, they took him to their room. Richard smiled for the first time. "Home," he said quietly, looking around their messy bedroom.

They stripped his robe, finding him to be small of stature and build, much younger looking than they had assumed. He was completely hairless, other than that on his head and his sparse beard and pubic hair. Except for some small bruises, he seemed to be in good condition. They gave him a hot bath and shaved his beard, then dressed him in warm wool socks, sweat pants and one of Randy's impossibly large sweaters.

They questioned him further, but his replies were either one word responses or shrugs of his shoulders. He thought he was seventeen years old. In the bright light of the room, his eyes seemed glassy, so they roused Linda who had had Emergency Medical Technician training.

Richard did not seem to mind being stripped in her presence. After a brief examination, they dressed him once more. Linda tapped her front teeth, deep in thought before she spoke. "The bruises aren't serious. The worst one is on his leg. The needle marks on his arms and his glassy eyes indicate he's been drugged. And, there's something else I'm not sure of. His breasts seem enlarged, and look at his lack of body hair. I'd say he's been given some sort of hormonal drug. My dad's an endocrinologist ya know. Maybe he can examine him tomorrow." She snapped her fingers in front of the boy's face to get his attention. "Sweetie, how did you get that bruise on your ankle," she asked slowly.

A pained expression washed over Richard's face. "Chain," he whispered.

"Jesus," Randy exclaimed in disgust.

Linda patted Richard's cheek. "Sweetheart, are you hungry?" He nodded and smiled. She gently took his hand and said, "Good. Come with me. I'm sure Joe and Randy are starving, so we'll have something delicious to eat."

As they passed through the living room, Richard pulled away from her to stare at the unframed painting in the corner.

"Brandon," he murmured.

To be continued

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