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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From Part One, Chapter Six:  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 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.


Randy carefully placed an arm around Richard's shoulders. "Yes, that's Brandon. Was he with you?" Richard nodded, still staring at the painting.

Randy turned to the others.
"Shit! We need help." Picking up the telephone, he dialed Bart, but his voice mail answered. "Fuck," he exclaimed. He dialed John. "John--sorry to disturb ya--ya know your missing persons case? We've got a found person case for ya that's tied into it." He filled the detective in on the particulars and broke the connection. "He'll be over in a little while."

The doorbell rang as they finished their late evening meal. Stella admitted John with a hug and led him to the dining room. Richard stared open-mouthed at the detective and ran into his arms. "Mickey," he whispered over and over.

"He's been drugged John, but he recognized Brandon from the portrait. Wherever he came from, Brandon was there too," Randy explained.

John gently disengaged himself from the boy, saying quietly, "Richard, I'm not Mickey."

"No? You look like him." Tears welled in his eyes again. "But, it's been a long time."

They sat at the table, side by side, with Richard clutching John's hand. The detective asked, "Where have you been for all this time?"

"Big house."

"Where did you come from, before you came to the big house," John asked gently.

The boy smiled. "Home."

"Where was your home? What town?"


"Springfield, Missouri?"

Richard shook his head. "Springfield, Illinois." Now, he seemed to have difficulty keeping his eyes open.

John patted the boy's hand and addressed the group. "He'll feel better with a good night's rest. Maybe the drug will have worn off by then. We need to find out where the 'big house' is."

Randy said, "Let's put him in the guest room." He stood and took Richard's hand. "Come with me. I have a nice soft bed waiting for you."

Fear seized the boy and he wailed hysterically, "No! No bed! No chain!" He clutched at John convulsively. "Mickey! Help me!"

Everyone stood, aghast at the outburst, staring at John and the boy. Joe offered, "He's not going to go to bed by himself. Can you stay with him John?"

All eyes were on the detective as he cradled the terrified Richard in his arms. He smiled at the group and nodded. To the boy, he asked, "Will you go to bed and get some rest if I stay with you?"

Richard nodded enthusiastically and everyone sighed with relief. John took the youth by the hand and followed Joe to the guest bedroom. "Thanks for doing this John," he said sincerely.

"It's okay. I don't mind. He needs some comfort," John said with a smile.

Joe closed the door quietly and the man and boy were alone. John placed his arm around Richard and walked him around the bed. "See, there are no chains. You're safe and I'm with you."

He undressed Richard, pausing in embarrassment when he discovered the lack of underwear. Shrugging, he sat the naked youth on the bed and began to undress himself. He peeled out of his watch cap, heavy jacket, T-shirt, shoes, socks and sweat pants under the boy's watchful eye. He stopped stripping when he was down to his boxer shorts.

"Are you ready to go to sleep Richard?" he asked gently.

"Call me Dickie. Like you used to ... please," the boy responded.

Smiling, John turned out the light and they climbed into the bed. "Okay Dickie."

Richard immediately snuggled close to John, resting his head in the hollow of the man's shoulder and his arm on the detective's muscular chest.

All was quiet for several minutes, then Richard whispered, "I love you Mickey." And his lips brushed John's cheek softly. The Land of Nod welcomed the boy with sweet rest, but burdened John with fitful slumber.

He dreamed of strong hands caressing him, loving lips exploring his body, and soft flesh surrounding his manhood. With his own hands, he felt the hard plates of muscle in his lover's back. As his partner moved above him, he thrilled at the rasp of the hairy chest against his nipples. Passion welled within him and he grabbed his lover's face and brought it to his for a long, deep kiss. Presently, his testicles began to boil with that certain feeling that an orgasm was not far off.

He jerked awake. Richard's soft lips suckled contentedly at his nipple while the boy's hand stroked his fierce erection with silken fingers.

"Ahhhhh," he moaned and circled the small form with his arms. Richard abandoned the teat in favor of John's lips. The boy's tongue plunged into his mouth, drawing the man into his aura of passion.

John's body trembled, suddenly awakened to feelings that too long had lain dormant in his soul, and he richly rewarded the boy, returning the affection they both craved. He hungrily suckled Richard's tongue, seeking all of the love the boy could supply. He stroked the young body above him reverently, sending loving messages with the tips of his fingers.

But, Richard's talented hand on John's quivering penis was bringing his ardor to a peak. Richard pulled away from the kiss and whispered, "You're close Mickey. I want you." With that, he disappeared under the covers, taking the detective's penis into his mouth and the churning testicles into his hand.

"Uhhngh!" John grunted at the magic Richard was performing. His head thrashed from side to side and his fists made shipwreck of the bed covers. In minuets his prostate spasmed and loosened the floodgates of his seed into his lover's waiting mouth.

Richard cleaned the softening penis and replaced it within the confines of John's boxers. Then, he kissed his way up John's body and rested his head on the man's heaving chest. At length, they both slept peacefully.

At seven o'clock the next morning, Joe knocked softly on the guest room door and opened it. John and Richard were in the same position in which they had fallen asleep. Although his eyes were closed, the detective was awake, slowly stroking the boy's back.

"Good morning," Joe whispered. John's eyes flew open and his face flushed with embarrassment.

Joe smiled at him and backed out of the door, calling softly to Randy. When his partner arrived, Joe whispered to him, then went to the bed and shook Richard awake. "Hey good buddy, did you sleep well."

The boy roused and blinked, then smiled in recognition. He looked down at John--on whom he lay--and sat up, mumbling apologies. John smiled in spite of his red face and patted Richard's shoulder. "It's okay. You needed to be held."

Richard grinned shyly. "Thanks. It was great having someone make me feel safe." He frowned. "You look just like my brother."

Joe spoke up. "We'll talk more about that later. I've got an idea that you would like a haircut right about now, then some breakfast." He helped the boy to dress and they departed.

Randy sat on the edge of the bed, barely glancing at John's red face. "Want to talk about it?" he asked quietly. John flung his arm across his eyes and began to cry. Randy slowly pulled it away and gathered the man to his chest, burying the embarrassed face in the soft cotton of his T-shirt.

Minutes later, after John had quieted somewhat, Randy murmured, "He had sex with you." John nodded. "And you enjoyed it." Again, the head nodded. "And you are embarrassed about it." The head responded once more.

Randy stroked John's hair, feeling the man's stubbled cheek against his chest. "Listen to me. First, Richard needed your affection. He was in bad shape, so you might have even saved his sanity. Second, you obviously needed to receive the affection he had to give. I'll bet that at some point last night, something in your soul went 'clunk' and fell into place. Am I right?"

Randy heard a weak "Yes" mumbled into his T-shirt. "So John, my best advice to you is don't be embarrassed. Rather, rejoice in newfound knowledge about yourself."

John pulled away and looked up at him with pleading eyes. "But, what about the Department? A gay cop? What about me and Bart? What if he finds out? What ..."

"John!" Randy interrupted him sternly. "You could sit here and 'what about' all day and it wouldn't do you a bit of good. You've got your whole fucking life before you and you should live it as a whole, complete, energized, happy person. I ought to know; I had my true self so well hidden I couldn't find me until Joe planted the kiss of a lifetime on me one day." He ruffled John's hair and shook him gently. "Now, get up and stand tall and proud, like the strong, kind, loving man you really are."

John's face burst into a genuine smile. Randy stroked his cheek and kissed his forehead. "Don't worry about Bart. You can tell him when the time is right and he'll accept you for who you really are."

Randy stood and John climbed out of bed with a huge erection tenting his boxers. "Uh," Randy murmured and pointed, "Is that a gun in your pocket officer?"

John chuckled. "No smartass, that's a fire hose that's going to go off if I don't get to the bathroom quick!"


Everyone was gathered at the breakfast table when Joe led a remarkable looking Richard into the room.

Joe had barbered his locks into short, cute spikes held up with gel. He now looked like the incredibly attractive teenager he was. There was a smile on his face and his dark eyes were clear and intelligent.

Joe introduced him to the group, saving John for last. The detective held out his hand. "Hi, I'm John Wilson."

Richard took the proffered hand and said, "Please call me Dickie." Then, he gathered John into an embrace and whispered, "Thank you for being Mickey last night."

John whispered back, "It was my pleasure. We both needed that."

Smiling, everyone crowded around the table for the morning repast. Suddenly, Randy smacked his forehead. "Damn, I forgot to call Bart this morning."

John soothed, "I left a voice mail for him last night." At that moment, his cell phone chirped. It was Bart. John briefly filled him in and chuckled as he broke the connection. "He's so excited he almost wet his pants." He turned to Richard. "Dickie, you're a hero. Your presence is going to break our missing persons case wide open."

Happy confusion reigned in the condo as Bart arrived. Randy, Joe, Stella and Linda were making last minute preparations to head off to their classes while John and Dickie--as he preferred to be called--cleared the breakfast table and stacked the dishes in the dishwasher. All four of the permanent residents gave the startled Bart hugs as they filed out the front door.

In the kitchen, the detective pumped Dickie's hand as John made introductions. The three immediately settled for a conference, and the boy's story unfolded from his own lips.

Shortly after Dickie's sixteenth birthday, he and his brother Michael, then eighteen, secretly declared their love for each other. Every night, they joyously commuted to one bedroom or the other to express their affection. Unfortunately, their father caught them one evening and immediately disavowed Michael, evicting him with one suitcase and the clothes on his back.

Two weeks later, Dickie received a curt e-mail from his brother stating that he had enlisted in the Army.

A week after that, he was awakened in the middle of the night by two dark-skined men with long hair and beards. They held him down on the bed and injected him with something that put him to sleep. He awakened in the place he had lived until two days ago.

"Dickie, do you believe that your parents arranged this?" Bart asked. The boy nodded, then continued his story.

The place was a beautiful, large well-kept house, old with much dark wood and stained glass that smelled of incense and beeswax. It appeared to be the home of a religious order. The house was run efficiently by two dozen men, all with dark skin, long dark hair and beards who always wore black robes. They each seemed to have specific duties, but spent many hours chanting and praying.

The house was surrounded by large well-kept grounds and a high stone wall. The "brothers" as he was instructed to call them, raised almost all the food they ate.

On the day of his arrival, Dickey's clothes were taken from him. In return, he was given a white robe to wear, no underwear or shoes, just the robe. He was told that, at present, with his love for other men, he was an abomination to God. But, in due time, his soul would be cleansed and he would be returned to the glory of the Lord, through study, prayer and "treatments."

He was led down to the basement of the house where a dozen other boys, dressed in white robes, were located. For the first few weeks, he spent all of his time there that did not involve study, prayer or treatments.

"So, that's how the brothers finance their religious order." John said in disgust. "By contracting to 'cure' boys of homosexuality."

For the first few weeks, Dickie was given aversion treatment, strapped to a chair with electrodes applied to his skin. He was shown brief video clips of boys engaged in sexual activity while mild electric bursts were sent through the electrodes. These video clips were alternated with longer clips of beautiful women, but without the electric shocks.

When the initial aversion treatment failed to achieve the desired result, he was given a series of injections that ultimately resulted in a lowered sex drive and loss of body hair. This treatment was combined with sessions in which he viewed long clips of nude women.

"I wonder how much the dear brothers charge to perform 'God's work,'" John wondered.

The other boys in the house were about Dickie's age. He could tell that some had been there for a while by their long hair and beards. Even though they were under an order of silence, Dickie was able to determine that most of them had been brought to the house under similar circumstances.

Each night, they were given a pill that made them drowsy and shackled by the ankle to their beds.

Eventually, Dickey was given duties. At first, he was set to cleaning the house, then he began toiling outdoors in the vegetable garden and the barnyard. He had long since become docile, and the brothers began to keep less than a watchful eye on him.

The day after Brandon Johnson arrived, he went to the ancient stone tool shed for a different garden implement. While he waited for his eyes to adjust to the dark interior, he noticed that a barrel had been moved, revealing a small wooden door in the back wall. He opened it and cool air rushed out. At first, he assumed it was a mine shaft; but, later he reasoned that it was too small for that purpose, so it must have been a tunnel ... leading somewhere ... anywhere away from his dreary drugged existence. And, an idea began to form in his mind.

It took him days to work up the courage to escape. Then, the day arrived. He decided to make the attempt at night, just before bedtime while the boys were filing in and out of the bathroom. Unfortunately, before he could make his getaway, a brother gave him the customary pill.

Before it could take effect, he left by the side door of the house and raced like the wind to the tool shed. Groping in the dark, he found the tunnel door and climbed through, repositioning the barrel in front of it.

As he made his way through the pitch blackness, the pill began to take effect, but the cold kept him awake. He didn't know how long it took him, but he finally came out of the tunnel in a filthy dank room in the basement of a building. Fortunately, starlight shone through the narrow high windows and he found a door to a maze of hallways that eventually led to some stairs. From there, he made his way outside where Randy and Joe found him. 

The kitchen was silent for a few minutes, then Dickey squeezed John's hand. The detective didn't know at what point in the story the boy had taken it.

"Dickie, how long did you stay at the house?" John asked.

"I don't know for sure. There were no calendars or TV or radio. I could only tell time by the passing seasons. I know that I was there for two winters."

"Jesus," John muttered, feeling abject pity for the boy.

Bart, who had been deep in thought, raised his head and asked. "What time of the day did you enter the tunnel?"

"At dusk. They always made us go to bed when it got dark."

Bart pursed his lips, calculating. "It gets dark about five thirty this time of year, and Randy and Joe found you about ten o'clock. Hm. So, it took you four and a half hours to go through the tunnel. I assume that you took it slow."

"Yeah. It was pitch dark down there. I measured every step. I didn't want to fall into a hole or anything."

Bart was becoming more excited by the minute. "You came out of the tunnel in the Matson University administration building. So, the compound where you were held prisoner can't be too far away. Where is the tool shed in relation to the rest of the compound?"

"It's next to the south wall."

"That means the tunnel runs north from the administration building, assuming there are no curves in it. So, it should be easy to find out where these dear 'servants of God' are located."

"Whoa. Slow down. Wait a minute," John protested. "Why would there be a tunnel leading anywhere from the school's administration building?"

Bart grinned. "That building predates the Civil War. It was Cyrus Matson's house. And legend has it that he smuggled runaway slaves out of the state. Remember that Missouri was a slave state." He chuckled. "Apparently that legend is true."

Dickie was white as a ghost. "You mean I went through a tunnel that's a hundred and fifty years old? That nobody knows about?" 
Bart nodded. "Shit! It could have fallen in on me at any minute."


Bart and John decided to access the city's plat maps on the mainframe computer. As they drove to police headquarters, John filled Dickie in on the Brandon Johnson case. He concluded with, "So, we must assume that Johnson's parents hired the 'brothers' the same as your parents."

"But, there's one difference if they did," Bart piped up. "Brandon Johnson was over eighteen. He was a legal adult."

"Then legally, he was kidnapped!" Understanding washed over John.

"It sure looks like it," Bart agreed. "This could be a criminal case after all, but the district attorney will have to decide. And kidnapping is a federal offense, so the FBI would have to be involved." He frowned. "But, we need more evidence. We need to speak to Ed Tekai again. Maybe Brandon told him some things about his parents."

Everyone processed this information for a few minutes, then Bart said contritely, "John I want to apologize for not being available for you last night. I had some stuff to take care of."

"That's okay. It was a profitable evening for me too. I worked some personal stuff out as well. In fact, I need to talk to you about it. I'd like to take you to dinner tonight. Okay?" Bart nodded. "Was your problem with Elizabeth again?" John ventured.

"Yeah," Bart replied quietly. "We broke up." John's eyes widened and his mouth dropped open. "We were talking on the phone--she wants to know about everything I do, ya know--and I told her about the Johnson case." John could see Bart gripping the steering wheel tighter by the second. "When I finished, she said she couldn't see why we would be concerned about finding some faggot." He paused to grind his teeth. "So, I told her to fuck off, eat shit and die ... and I hung up on her."

Silence reigned in the car for maybe five seconds, then John started to giggle. The more he thought about the look on Elizabeth's face when she heard that, the funnier it seemed, and he
broke into chuckles. Dickie started to chortle from the back seat, and he and John eventually melted into helpless cackles, gasping for breath. The merriment was infectious and spread to Bart. In the end, he laughed so hard that he had to pull to the side of the road.

When they were driving again, John turned to Bart. "Partner, the dinner tonight will be in celebration of your act of courage. It won't be the 'true confession' time that I'd planned." He took a deep breath. "So, I'll tell ya right now what I was going to say at dinner. Bart, I'm gay," he said, gazing intently at his friend.

As he was speaking, they had pulled into a space in the police parking lot. Bart stopped the car and turned off the ignition. He turned to John and said, "You're pretty courageous yourself partner. Congratulations. It must have taken some guts to look within yourself and accept the truth."

They exchanged smiles. John murmured, "Thanks Bart for understanding."

Bart gave him a crooked grin. "What's to understand? You're my partner and my buddy. Now, come on. We've got work to do."

Within minutes, the three were huddled in front of a computer monitor, accessing the city maps. They located the brothers' compound a mile north of the Matson property. Bart copied down the tract number and printed the map. He then performed a title search.

"Hm," he mused, "it's just as I thought. The compound was built in 1857, by Cyrus Matson, at the same time he built his house. He deeded the compound over to a Roman Catholic religious order. It was a monastery until 1905, then it became a nunnery until 1950. It changed hands several times after that until six years ago when it was bought by The Order of DuAfallaousmek. They must be the so-called brothers." He printed the title search.

They took Dickie to Bart's office and photographed his injuries for evidence. He told them each brother carried a stick that they used when a boy "misbehaved," which seemed to be often according to the brothers. Otherwise, he never saw any other instruments of punishment.

Later in the day, Bart went into conference with his Capitan, the chief of police and the district attorney to build a case before they called in the FBI.

Meanwhile, John and Dickie went in search of Ed Tekai. The boy wept tears of joy that Brandon had been located. John asked him leading questions about Johnson's parents.

Ed was more than willing to talk about them. "After Brandon and I became lovers, we talked about living together; but, he said that his parents would not approve. They had always been very strict with him, but more so after they caught him and his best friend having sex four years ago. They hounded him until he started dating girls and went out for sports. That's why he's a gymnast. He knew that he would never be able to get away from them if he didn't convince them he was straight. And he succeeded, sort of. They let him come to school here, but still kept a tight leash on him."

His face became a mixture of pain and admiration. "But then, he did the unthinkable: he slipped the leash, or tried to. I guess he thought he was far enough away from them to be safe, because the week before he disappeared, he called them and told them he was gay, and wouldn't ever come back home."

Ed swallowed back a sob, reliving the horrible fears that had plagued him for the past week. "When he disappeared, I didn't know what to think. Did he get cold feet and run away? Did he go back home to Kansas? Did he kill himself?"

John soothed, "Well, now we know that he didn't disappear of his own free will. And, we know where he is. And, we'll get him back for you."

John's cell phone chirped. Bart asked that he bring Ed and Dickie to police headquarters to give depositions to the district attorney. After their testimony, the DA thought they had a case against Johnson's parents as well as the brothers, and called the local FBI chief.

After they clocked out, Bart drove by the condo to drop off Dickie. There, they took the opportunity to bring Randy, Joe, Stella and Linda up-to-date on the case.

Later that evening, while John and Bart were celebrating at a local bistro, there was a knock at the condo door. Randy opened it to reveal an nervous-looking young man.

The boy's eyes were bright with barely suppressed anticipation. "Good evening, my name is Michael Marks. I understand that my brother Richard is here."


Randy pulled him inside, and led him into the den where everyone was sprawled studying or watching TV. Michael spotted his brother and yelled, "Dickie."

They ran into each other's arms and embraced for several minutes. The observers smiled silently and watched, misty-eyed, as the brothers rocked back and forth with tears of joy streaming down their faces. At length, the boys broke apart and began to babble at each other with questions and comments. Stella, the consummate hostess, herded everyone into the dining room for coffee and a late night snack.

Dickie gave his brother an edited version of his experiences for the past two years, then Randy brought him up-to-date on the Brandon Johnson case. Mickey was seething with anger at the end of the tale.

Dickie moved to his lap and said, "This is no time to be angry Mickey. We're back together now." He grinned and rubbed noses with his brother. "What have you been doing all this time?"

Mickey chuckled. "I've been right here in Canyon City since my basic training. I'm stationed at the the Army supply depot just outside of town. And, I only live a mile away from here." They all laughed at the irony. "This afternoon, a detective named Killian said he located me through Army records and told me you would be at this address."

The boys stopped speaking and stared at each other, becoming oblivious to anything outside themselves. Their emotions began to boil, and a powerful combination of love and lust radiated throughout the room.

Stella diplomatically cleared her throat. "Mickey, your brother has been staying with us. And you are welcome to stay here tonight. I'm sure you two have some catching up to do."

At that moment, Bart and John were making a masterful attempt at inebriation, after demolishing plates of down-home Italian food at a local eatery. They had progressed to the giggling stage as they relived Bart's triumphant break with Elizabeth.

Bart was almost breathless with mirth. "I couldn't believe I told her to fuck off, eat shit and die. It felt so good that I just sat and stared at the phone.
But, fifteen minutes later, my dad called and went off on me for speaking to her that way. So, I told him the same thing. Then I ripped the phone out of the wall."

He sat grinning for a full minute before it melted from his face. "When I broke up with her, I broke up with him too." He gave John a determined stare. "He's my dad, but fuck him. I've spent my life trying to please the bastard and failed ... in his eyes. Well, I'm tired of trying to earn his love. I have no more emotional currency to spend, except for myself. It's time I paid attention to my own happiness."

John reached across the table and took his friend's hand. "I'm so proud of you I could shout." He giggled. "But, let's have another beer instead."

Dickie and Mickey stood naked in the dim light of the bedside lamp, staring, each drinking in the sight of the other, processing the changes the years had wrought.

"God," Dickie whispered, "you're more beautiful than I remembered."

Mickey touched his brother's face and ran his fingers down the boy's chest. "Speak for yourself little bro. You're the most beautiful sight I've ever seen."

Dickie swallowed, looking down at Mickey's man-sized erection, then--in surprise--at his own rampant penis. "Wow! I haven't had a hard-on in over a year."

Mickey smiled, breathless with desire. "I sorta have that effect on cute little brothers."

"Let's go to bed Mickey. Make love to me. I can't wait any longer," he urged, pulling the larger boy onto the bed.

Mickey stroked his brother's body with lust-filled eyes. When his fingers found Dickie's penis, he gave a quick intake of breath. "Wow! How did a little guy like you get such a big dick?"

Dickie favored him with a long sweet kiss. "Mm, the same place my horse-hung brother got his."

They giggled quietly, each stroking the other's erection. Mickey murmured, "God Dickie, I'm so close."

"Me too," Dickie crooned, turning in the bed. They lay on their sides and nursed one another to sweet--long overdue--orgasms.

Later, as Mickey held his brother, he said quietly, "Your eighteenth birthday is next month. I was making plans to come take you from Mom and Dad then ... at gunpoint, if necessary. But, I'm glad I didn't have to see them again."

Dickie murmured, "I don't ever want to see them again. I love you, and I want to spend the rest of my life with you."

Two very drunk detectives poured themselves out of a cab and staggered into Bart's apartment. In the bedroom, they didn't bother turning on the light to undress. Consequently, they bumped into each other trying to remove their shirts, rearranged the furniture trying to kick off their shoes and spent a great deal of time hopping from one foot to the other trying to shed socks and pants. Failing miserably in all attempts, they fell on their butts. They gave up disrobing and clawed their way up onto the bed to lay side by side.

When the room stopped spinning and his stomach decided to settle in one place, Bart felt confident enough to speak. He turned on his side and whispered, "John, you're my best friend."

John gathered Bart close to him. "I am," he crooned. Then, they quietly passed out.

At the ungodly hour of eight o'clock, the next morning, two grumpy, hung over detectives stopped in front of the condo to retrieve Bart's car. They paused, staring at the front door and said, "Coffee," at the same time.

Joe broke into silent laughter as a giggling Randy led the two plainclothes zombies into the kitchen. Mickey and Dickie simply stared. Bart growled at Joe, "There's a law against laughing at hung over detectives. You can be arrested."

He sat heavily at the table, as did John. Still smirking, Randy placed mugs of steaming coffee before them. "Had some grownup fun last night, huh?"

John rested his head in his hands. "Ohhhh shit," he moaned, then took a sip of the soothing hot liquid.

Mickey introduced himself. "John, no wonder Dickie mistook you for me. We do look alike."

John tried to smile past his throbbing head. "No kidding. This is weird, too weird for a hangover."

Mickey turned a serious face to Bart. "Thank you for finding me and getting me back together with my brother." He smiled at Dickey and kissed his cheek. "This is better than all the Christmas presents I've ever had."

Before Bart could respond, his cell phone chirped and he stepped into the hallway to have a long, heated conversation with someone. Breaking the connection, he sighed dejectedly. "That was the Capitan. The FBI won't take the case. They checked the public records where Brandon Johnson's parents live and found out that they filed commitment papers on him. So, as far as the Bureau is concerned, his disappearance wasn't kidnapping." He ran his hands through his hair. "The compound lies within the Canyon City limits, so it's back in our hands. The mayor, chief of police and district attorney all agree that something should be done, but they don't know what."

Dickey sputtered, "You mean I spent two years in that hell hole and nothing's going to be done about it?"

Bart replied mildly, "Please don't shout. My head hurts. And, I didn't say nothing was going to be done. But, look at it this way, you were a minor under your parents control. If they signed a document, giving the brothers control over you, what you experienced might be legal."

The statement had a chilling effect on the room. Mickey asked, "You mean that my parents might have signed a contract to have that done to my brother?"

Bart nodded. "The brothers would have to be complete idiots not to have something in writing. And there's no legal way we can get a look at the paperwork."

Randy pondered, "But, wouldn't they have to have some sort of license to operate a rehabilitation hospital? Especially if Brandon's parents had him legally committed to them?"

Bart and John's eyes went wide. "I never thought of that," Bart mused. He passed the question along to his superior with a quick phone call.

Fifteen minutes later, his cell phone chirped. He listened for a few minutes, then broke the connection. "This is turning out to be a fairly shitty day. I have an upset stomach, a splitting headache, and now the Capitan tells me that the brothers' charter allows them to take in and train novices for their order. Ten to one that's the way their contract with the parents reads."

Randy asked, "Then, the district attorney isn't going to do anything?"

"They're talking it over," Bart said skeptically. "But they really don't want to go pounding on the door of a religious order. They're afraid of what the public would think."

Joe stood and paced the room for a few minutes, then stopped and addressed the group. "I think the district attorney needs some help from the Fourth Estate."

"Huh?" Mickey and Dickie asked at the same time.

Smiling, Joe explained. "My dad is the editor of the Grant County Times, the regional newspaper, and my uncle is the publisher."

His smile acquired the aspect of a wolf scenting prey. "I wonder what the public would think if the paper ran a long series of articles and editorials about a local religious order that took in child novices, then drugged them, gave them electric shock treatments, beat them with sticks and chained them to their beds at night. I can see the color pictures of Dickie's bruises in the side bar. Then, I can see the local TV news reporters breathlessly interviewing Dickie about his experiences there."

He grinned. "Child abuse is a nasty word in the public's mind, particularly when it concerns religious organizations."

A malicious smile spread across Bart's face. He nodded in agreement. Joe said, "Okay, I'll talk to my dad. I'm sure he'll have a nice conversation with the mayor tomorrow morning."

Randy turned to Bart. "If the mayor caves in, then how are you going to get the boys out of there? If you go knock on the compound door, the brothers probably won't even admit that they're there."

Bart grinned. "Oh, we'll get them out. I'll have a court order ... and thirty or so members of the Canyon City PD to back me up."

John said, "Ya know partner, my headache is gone already."

"Mine too," Bart agreed.

To be continued

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