DISCLAIMER: The following story is a fictional account involving a lesbian couple and a teenage boy who has psychopathic tendencies. Although no sexual activity takes place in this story, there are references to gay sex and anyone who is uncomfortable with this should obviously not be reading it. Some themes are mature and may not be suitable to younger audiences. All characters are fictional and any resemblance to real people is purely coincidental. Although the story takes place in actual locations and establishments, the author takes full responsibility for all events described and these are not in any way meant to reflect the activities of real individuals or religious establishments nor school or corporate policies. The author retains full copyright of this story, and of stories based on these characters.

Please note that this is the twenty-sixth in a series of short stories known collectively as Naptown Tales. The series of stories can be found on my GayAuthors Page and on the Naptown Tales Page at Awesome Dude, as well as at Nifty. Please see the Introduction for important background on the series.

A New Beginning

A Naptown Tale by Altimexis

"How many more places do we have to look at, Cathy?" I asked my wife as we hopped back into our car, a '98 Honda Accord that, while pretty old, still ran well and got us where we needed to go.

"Just three more, Debbie," she answered. "I sure hope at least one of 'em pans out," she added.

I did, too. We'd been at it for three days, searching listing after listing looking for something we could afford. It was the week between Christmas and New Years and classes would start next week. We knew we should have started our search much earlier, but with the Christmas season and all, our lives had just been too hectic. Now, everything good had already been taken and there really wasn't much left to choose from.

Not that we had to move or anything. My parents were more than happy to allow us to stay with them indefinitely, and they were delighted to look after little Larry, as they were doing right now, but we really wanted our own place. We needed our own place. We desperately needed privacy. Living with my parents, we really couldn't have sex without them knowing about it. We were getting beyond horny.

But with our limited resources, which consisted of our college savings and the limited funds our parents were willing to kick in, we couldn't afford much in the way of rent. Plus we'd have to furnish the place and we'd have to pay for daycare. Fortunately, the University had a great daycare center, and we'd managed to get Larry enrolled in time to avoid having him waitlisted. The cost was on a sliding scale, but it was based on our parents' income, which was not insubstantial. In that sense, we were fucked. We were going to have to pay the maximum. Still, it was convenient and would fit in with our class schedules.

We must have looked at fifty or sixty apartments over the course of the Christmas break week. We were trying to find something in close proximity to the campus so as to keep our commuting costs to a minimum, and of course we wanted to be in a safe neighborhood. Some apartments we looked at were in crappy run-down buildings and some were mother-in-law apartments in people's homes. Those were actually the nicest, but as soon as they heard we had an infant, they were not at all interested in renting to us. Frankly, I couldn't blame them. Why would they want a screaming baby in the house?

When we pulled up to the next place we were going to look at, I was pleasantly surprised. It was right on the old Central Canal, which should have made it prohibitively expensive, but the asking rent was only $600 a month for a two bedroom, 2½ bath place, which was a steal. It was a little closer into the inner city than we would have liked, but the neighborhood seemed nice, and it was an easy drive to campus. Technically, it was still considered part of the Butler-Tarkington Neighborhood, which was one of the first interracial neighborhoods in the city.

After we rang the doorbell, an elderly African American Woman answered the door, her grey hair shining in the winter sun.

"Hello," I said, "we called about the ad for the apartment." Extending my hand, I said, "I'm Debbie McLaughlin and this is my wife, Cathy Andrews."

"Hello, dear," she answered as she warmly shook my hand. "I'm Emma Lee, and welcome to the neighborhood," she added.

"Before we go any further," Cathy said, "you probably need to know that we have an infant."

"Honey," Emma replied, "once I take out my hearing aids and go to bed, your infant child could scream his poor lungs out and I wouldn't hear a thing. I absolutely adore children. In fact, I don't know what childcare arrangements you may have made, but I can probably do it for less, do a better job and do it with a whole lot more love. I may look old, but I still get around pretty well for a 77-year-old gal, and that ain't that old any more, as they say."

I raised my eyebrows in surprise. What a delightful less-than-young lady.

"Now let's go take a look at the apartment." She had a wonderful smile too.

Emma took us across her front porch, literally, next door. "The apartment is actually the entire other half of my house. In other words, it's the second half of a duplex," she explained as she opened the door. "We share the front porch and we share the cellar, which is accessed from a stairway outside the back."

Leading us inside the front door, she continued, "The first floor's already furnished with a sofa and love seat in the living room. It's not much, but it's enough for basic living." The living room was small, but functional and the furniture was probably nicer than what we would have bought for ourselves. All we would need to buy would be a TV and entertainment system.

As if reading our minds, she went on to say, "We do have a hookup for cable and, believe it or not, even a fiber-optic line for FiOS if you want it, but if you keep quiet, I'll let you hook up to my satellite dish and split the costs with me, and the same goes for my DSL." Sweet.

Continuing as she led us into the kitchen, she pointed out, "We have gas appliances and gas heat. You're on the hook for all utilities, however. With the price of gas and electricity these days, I can't afford to include 'em anymore. Had to put in separate meters, a separate furnace and all, but the price a gas ain't goin' down." We certainly understood.

Looking around the kitchen, it was again pretty small, but functional. The appliances weren't all that new, but they were sufficient. Further back was a large eating area with a table and chairs. There was no formal dining room, but we didn't expect that we'd need one, as we wouldn't be doing any formal entertaining. Out the back was an enclosed screened-in porch, which was a nice touch, and there was a small half-bath back there as well.

Heading back to the living room, Emma took us up a narrow set of stairs to the second floor, where there were two bedrooms; a front bedroom and a back bedroom, both of which were unfurnished, and had tiny closets - not that we had much to fit in them anyway. In between the two bedrooms, directly above the kitchen I surmised, were two small bathrooms. One was a tiny master bathroom off the front bedroom that had a small, probably original pedestal sink and a tiny shower stall, and just off the stairway landing was a small bathroom with another pedestal sink and a real claw-foot bathtub. "There's also some space in the corner where you can put a changing table for the baby," Emma pointed out.

"This is nice . . . very nice," Cathy said and I nodded my head in agreement. "It's hard to believe you'd let us have all this for six hundred a month. It's basically a semi-detached house, after all."

"Let's go out back and we'll talk," Emma said. As we exited the screened porch, she continued, "There are a number of reasons I'm not asking that much for it. The neighborhood's transitional and even though the neighborhood association's very strong and has done an excellent job of keeping crime and drugs out, most people don't want to live down here, which is a real shame. Downtown's thriving and maybe one day the development along the canal will reach all the way up to here, but for now, this is kind of a no man's land. We're not really gentrified . . . yet. Not that it's unsafe or anything, but a lot of properties around here are kind of run down and until that changes, rents around here are lower than you might expect.

"The other reason I'm not asking much is that I have an ulterior motive. This property is a lot to keep up. The yard needs mowing in the summer, the driveway needs clearing of snow in the winter, the path to the canal needs clearing and there's some weeding to do in the garden. It's hard to see now, but come spring, there'll be flowers all around here. I do most of the work, but I appreciate some help. Usually I rent the place to a couple of college boys or to a married couple." Chuckling, she added, "Usually, that's a man and a woman.

"Occasionally I've rented to a couple of gay college boys, but having a lesbian couple would be a first for me." Turning toward me, she said, "You look like you're pretty strong for a girl, Debbie, so if the two of you are willing to do a little hard physical labor, I think we could work out a mutually acceptable deal that could save you a lot of money on childcare costs and get you in here for a reasonable amount of rent."

Looking at Cathy and reflecting on the pleasant physical setting with the gentle waters of the canal babbling nearby, I said, "This could save us a small fortune, Cath. I was thinking maybe one or both of use might need to get jobs, but if we didn't need to pay childcare expenses, we could focus on our studies. And helping out around here wouldn't be much of a chore at all. It'd be no different than helping out around the house at my parents' place as far as I'm concerned."

"We'd need references before we could entrust you with our little Larry, Ms. Lee," Cathy stated.

"Honey," she said, "first of all, it's `Emma', and secondly, I raised five children of my own. They're all professionals, too. Come inside," she added, "and I'll show you."

Getting out a photo album, she did indeed show us pictures of her children growing up and told us of their accomplishments. She was proud of them, as she deserved to be. She had a son who was a Chiropractor in Columbus, a son who was a Cellist with the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra, a daughter who was a dermatologist at the Medical Center downtown, a daughter who was an attorney in Chicago and a son who was a psychologist, who taught at the university we would be attending shortly. Yes, her children were quite a legacy, but that still didn't speak to her current ability to care for an infant and, unfortunately, we had to raise the issue.

When Cathy did just that, Emma got out her phone and called her daughter, the dermatologist, then and there. The daughter told us that not only was her mother capable of taking care of an infant, but that she did so very recently with her own grandson, Emma's great grandson, when his mother was laid up after a skiing accident that left her unable to stand or walk for three months. Yes, Emma was more than capable of taking care of little Larry.

With that endorsement, we'd found ourselves a new home and a new surrogate grandmother.

With a signed lease, the first three months' rent up front and a little help from both sets of parents and some of our old high-school friends, we moved in the next day, leaving us plenty of time to get settled in before classes began on January third. There were still a lot of things we needed to buy for our new home and, thanks to a Nordstrom's Gift Certificate from our good friends, David, Jeremy, Trevor and Kurt, as well as gifts of cash from a number of our friends, we had plenty of money to buy some nice things with which to furnish the place. Taking advantage of all the sales, our place shaped up in no time.

Emma helped us out a lot, too, as she had a lot of left-over clothes for Larry that she was more than willing to let us have. Not to mention pots and pans and things that we would have otherwise had to purchase. She turned out to be a really sweet lady, moreover a good friend - really a member of our little family.

Before we knew it, it was time for the first day of classes to begin. Originally, Cathy had planned to study Architecture and I had planned to study Interior Design at the famed Rhode Island School of Design in Providence. However, after Cathy and I split and she got pregnant, it forced us to reassess our lives' ambitions and we both realized we were following paths that no longer suited our interests. Cathy decided to attend a local university and, at least for the time, major in Engineering. That way, she could branch out into a number of different fields. The curriculum was much more flexible than Architecture and yet it involved a number of similar skills.

When we reconciled and decided to marry after her emergency cesarean section and the delivery of Larry, I decided that I, too, needed a change in career direction, and that I would also attend the same local university. Although it is a small, private college, the curriculum is quite broad and affords the opportunity for a varied number of career choices. We decided that it was the ideal place for us to find ourselves. While Cathie would be studying Engineering, I would start out in the Education curriculum. That way, I could become a teacher, maybe a social worker or even a nurse if my interests changed.

A pleasant surprise on my class schedule was that my Psychology professor, Professor Lee, turned out to be none other than Emma's son. From the moment I walked into the classroom I was sure that it was him. He had the same warm smile, and when he spoke about what we would be doing during the semester, I knew right away that his would be my favorite class. It was evident from the start that he loved Psychology, but more importantly, he loved teaching psychology. What a rarity, to find someone who loves to teach and who loves the subject they teach. His passion was evident, and I could tell immediately that he couldn't wait to get up in the morning to share something new with us each and every day of class.

In his enthusiasm, he had a way of making each of us want to learn more, so I found myself reading more and more about psychology outside of class, and checking books on the subject out of the library. I actually began to wonder if Psychology might be something I might want to study as my major, or if I might want to become a psychologist as a profession, but that would be a major step. Would I want to become a professional psychologist? Did I have what it takes to share people's troubles with them and to help them deal with them? I was soon to find out what a horrible challenge that could be.

Cathy and I worked hard in our studies, but College was fun, and the time sailed by. Life at home was great, and Emma made it easy for us, doing just about everything but breastfeed little Larry, so we were never kept from our studies. She provided far more child care than the childcare center at the University ever would have, and for that we were eternally grateful to her; she said it was an absolute pleasure. To us, she was a Godsend. Yes, Emma truly was family and family meant love. We vowed to each other we'd have to see to it she was well cared for in her old age - or rather her older age.

In the meantime, as agreed, we kept the driveway and sidewalk cleared of snow, and when spring came, we helped with the planting, the weeding and other basic gardening tasks. It was certainly the least we could do, and Emma made it fun for us. She once said we were making the gardens pretty for God and He was sharing His beauty with us. For Cathy and me, that little bit of work was more than a fair trade for all the diaper changes that would have been.

Midterms came and went, and Cathy and I were maintaining an A average. We were both doing well and both proud of our accomplishments. Even Emma -- when she heard the news - had a special dinner ready for us the next day. Yeah, we had another grandmother and Larry had a great grandma.

As the semester neared its end, Professor Lee announced our class project, which would count as fully one-third of our grade. Working in pairs, we would interview one of his patients. These would be carefully selected patients of his. We were not to try to diagnose or treat, but rather we were to draw on all we'd learned during the semester, and write an essay based on the interview, placing the patient's problems in modern society. This was a freshman psychology course, after all, so it was the broader picture we were to explore - not the individual patient.

I was teamed up with a student named Jerry McDowell, a freshman from Fort Wayne, and our patient was a fourteen-year-old boy named Trey. We weren't given a last name, and all information about Trey we were to obtain from our interview. We met Trey in Professor Lee's office downtown one evening after class.

Trey was actually a rather good-looking boy, and he had an innocent purity about his face. He stood about five feet, eleven inches tall and was thin - he probably weighed no more than one-twenty. He was a redhead with a few freckles on his nose, and wore round wire-rim glasses. He looked pretty much like an average teenager in every way, sporting a stud in his left ear as was so popular these days.

Jerry started the questioning by asking, "Trey, could you tell us how long you've been seeing Professor Lee?"

"You mean Doc?" he asked. "I've been coming to see Doc for two and a half years, now, since I was twelve."

"Why do you see Doc?" I asked, wanting to get down to business, but hoping I wasn't pushing too far, too fast.

Getting a quirky smile on his face, this sweet, innocent-looking boy replied, "To keep me from beating the shit outta little boys, raping 'em silly, and offing 'em."

Oh my God! What kind of monster was this Trey?

"Why would you want to do that?" Jerry asked.

"Because it feels good," Trey responded. "It's such a rush when you have someone under your control, you know? To hear them beg for their lives, and know that you have the power over them. There's nothing like it in the world. It's not just sexual. It's just . . . awesome, you know? And when you physically hurt them and they scream, it's kind of a release. Then there is the sex, and it's wild sex, you know?"

"Have you ever done this to someone?" I asked.

"Just once, when I was twelve, but I didn't off the kid, and that's why the trouble began. 'Course Gary didn't off me or the other kids, either, and that's prolly why he got caught in the end. He just threatened us all, just like I threatened little Willie. Willie squealed on me, but I didn't squeal on Gary. I knew Gary really would have killed me, so I did what Gary told me to do and put the blame on Trevor Austin. It would'a worked, too, if Sammy hadn't squealed.

"I should'a just offed the kid in the first place. If Willie had just plain disappeared, they'd have searched for him, and eventually they'd have found his body in the lake, but there wouldn't have been anything to tie him to me, and that would have been the end of it."

"Wait a minute," I said as it dawned on me who this kid was. "You were involved in that church camp scandal."

"Hah! Now you can start looking at all the ways my being abused at camp made me the way I am," he responded with a laugh. "Lady, I was kinda like Gary before I ever went to the camp. I was a gay pervert the day I arrived and I wanted nothing more than to fuck the younger boys, but I didn't have the balls to do it. Meeting Gary was the best thing that coulda happened to me. When he showed me how to keep a kid like me in line by threatening him with his life, I was convinced I could do that, too. Gary and me were like kindred spirits, you know? When he told me he wanted to trade sexual favors, it was like every fantasy of mine ever come true. Everything he did to me, I wanted to do to the younger boys.

"When I saw Willie sitting by himself in the dark, looking homesick, it was the perfect chance. I went up to him. I acted like the big brother he never had. I told him I knew what it's like to be away from home for the first time and all that total bullshit. I got real buddy-buddy with him and led him to the clearing where Gary kept his mattress.

"When we got there, I swung around real quick and sucker-punched him in the stomach and told him if he cried for help, it'd be the last thing he ever did in his life . . . that I'd drown him in the lake. It was just like what Gary did with me.

"Man, the look of terror in his eyes was great! I made him get undressed, and then I started punching him. He didn't even try to defend himself . . . the little twerp. Finally, when I started screwing him, he screamed, so I had to push him down into the mattress to muffle his screams. His ass was so tight and it felt great when I got off.

"When I was done, I told him he could get dressed, and I made it clear again what would happen to him if he ever told who did this to him. 'Course there really wasn't any way for me to enforce that . . . well, maybe I was thinking I could have another go at him a few nights later . . . and that was my mistake. How dumb I was. I shoulda just drowned him in the lake, right then and there. That woulda been the end of it. They'd never have discovered the connection to Gary if I'd just been smart, but I was a stupid-assed twelve-year-old back then."

He eyes dazed and he grinned slightly as he looked up at the wall. "Yeah, sometimes I like thinking about Willie an' all that water . . ."

I couldn't believe what I was hearing. He looked like an angel, but this sweet young teenaged boy was an absolute monster. He was one of the so-called victims of the church camp scandal from a couple years back. A big deal had been made at the time of the fact that Kurt DeWitt, a victim himself, had talked two families, the Austins and the Kimballs, into footing the bill for psychologic counseling for these kids until they reached the age of eighteen. But this kid was already more than two years into the counseling, and he was still a raving psychopath.

"Trey," Jerry began, "you've been going through counseling for more than two years. Does Doc teach you these things? Does he teach you that you need to kill your victims so they can't talk?"

Looking down at the floor, Trey admitted, "No, he teaches me I need to find other outlets for my aggressive feelings . . . that I need to channel my negative thoughts into other activities such as sports. He teaches me that sex should be a mutual sort of thing, and that it's much more enjoyable by far if both people want to do it, and are around the same age. He says there's lots of ways to channel my aggression into positive activities like art and music. He says it's up to me to make something of my life. He says that thinking as I did before can only lead to my destruction."

"What do you think?" Jerry asked.

Pausing for what seemed like an interminable while, Trey got out a pack of cigarettes from his shirt pocket, took out one and lit up.

"Are you allowed to smoke in here?" I asked.

"Doc lets me smoke as much as I want during our sessions," he replied. "It helps me relax. But in answer to what I think, given my choice, I'd love nothing more than to rape little boys all day long. There's an endless supply of them and nothing would give me more pleasure than using them, the consequences be damned. Doing that would be fucking unbelievable."

He took a long drag on his cigarette and continued, "'Course doing that would be a ticket straight to Hell, which is prolly where I'm headed anyway, but I'm not in a hurry to go there. I sure as hell don't want to spend the rest of my days on earth as someone else's bitch in the state pen, and I don't wanna become the state's youngest person to undergo death by lethal injection. So I guess my dreams have been killed by society's rules, haven't they?"

"Given that there are rules," I asked, "do you think you can live with them?"

"Do I gotta choice?" he responded.

"Trey," Jerry asked, "even with the rules as they are, what would you do right now, right this moment, if there were a little boy placed in front of you. If you had the opportunity of a boy alone who seemed to be lost, no parents in sight, what would you do?"

"Oh, what a question!" Trey responded. "You're asking me if I'd commit a crime if I thought I could get away with it. You're also asking me to tell you, in which case you'll quite probably put it in the report you're gonna write. Then if a boy disappears tomorrow, everyone's gonna think I did it, regardless if it was me or not.

"Let me just say that I'd like to think I'm beyond doing such things to little boys," he finally answered.

"But if the opportunity presented itself?" I asked, too.

"Lady, if you were one point away from passing a course, and you really needed that course to graduate, and the teacher left the answer key in plain sight for a test and left the room, could you guarantee me you wouldn't sneak a peak at it? As Doc is always sayin' to me, none of us knows what we'll do 'til we're in a situation. The counseling sessions I'm in are to try to keep me sane . . . to try to keep me from acting on my old thinking when presented with an opportunity.

"Yeah, I'm a monster. I know I am. I don't want to be, but I am. In three years and two months, I'll be an adult and these counseling sessions will end. If I don't learn to control my impulses by then, I could become the next Jeffery Dahmer. I don't want to be remembered for somethin' like that. That's not me."

"Trey, you said you were like this before you even got to the camp." Jerry asked. "What do you mean? I mean, most twelve years old boys aren't rapists."

Trey got a smirk on his face and said, "Ah, back into shrink mode. There has to be a reason for me being all fucked up. Well, my story growin' up's pretty typical. My mother's a crack addict. She supports her habit by selling herself and by stealin'. Every now and then, she cleans up her act and they put me back with her, and then she falls off the wagon again and I end up back in the system. I've been in and out of foster care all my life, in foster homes and group homes. Believe me, I know what it's like to be on the receiving end of someone's prick. That's prolly a good part of the reason why I want to be the one givin' it."

Stumping out his cigarette, he continued, "There really isn't anything else to say. I'm totally fucked up inside, but if I can learn to channel all that hatred and pain in constructive ways, like Doc says, maybe I can still make somethin' of my life."

I put down my pad and pen and Jerry followed my cue. I looked deep into his eyes for a moment. "Trey," I began, "you know that you're a very lucky young man. Did you know that Gary . . . was . . . is HIV positive?" A slightly startled look came across his face. "Did you know . . . that little Cliff . . . is HIV positive?" The startled look started to frown. "Did you know . . . did you know that Sammy Franklin . . . is HIV positive?" I asked. His lower jaw dropped slightly. "Trey, you're a very lucky young man . . . you escaped the trauma that those boys are going through."

He composed himself quickly and his face took on a very smug façade. "Yeah, well, so far, so good." Then looking at his watch, he said, "Now if you'll excuse me, I have to catch my bus. My current foster parents are pretty strict about when they serve dinner."

After Trey had departed, I took a deep breath and released it before I said, "Wow! I wasn't expecting that. What a messed up kid!"

"The scary thing," Jerry said, "is that I honestly think that if he were presented with a little lost boy in the scenario I presented him, he'd rape the boy for all he's worth and dispose of the body in a way it wouldn't be found for perhaps years. Someone like that will do whatever he thinks he can get away with. Regardless of what he said to the contrary, he doesn't want to do the right thing, and he doesn't care about not going to Hell or anything like that. His only question is as to whether or not he thinks he can get away with it."

"You really think so?" I asked. "I mean, I know Sammy Franklin quite well. Actually, he's Sam Austin now that the Austins adopted him, but Sam's the same age and has been through exactly the same life experience as Trey, and Sam was at the same camp and was subjected to the same abuse there, and yet he's wonderfully adjusted. Sam would no more hurt someone than he would jump off a cliff."

"Not everyone reacts the same way to the same situation, Debbie," Jerry said. "When you came out with the lucky boy spiel and the HIV subject, and then the quick `so what' reaction he had when you finished . . . I got the impression Trey couldn't have cared less. He wasn't the slightest bit sorry for the other boys that came out of the same situation HIV positive. Kurt DeWitt was at that camp, too, and he got a Congressional Gold Medal for his bravery not only in saving Sam's life, but in all the work he's done since then to help the victims of rape and abuse. How many people who've been through rape are willing to face it, let alone help others?"

"His fiancé, Trevor, is always saying Kurt's one in a million. You're right . . . everyone's different," I acknowledged.

"Debbie, I don't want to sound sexist because that's far from my intent, but I'm glad that Professor Lee teamed us together for this. I think as a male, I'd see Trey's situation differently than you would as a female. When I saw his actions and his attitude, I felt the whole thing was an act. I just didn't buy it. It was as if he was hedging his words and knew what he had to say to make us think he was turning to `the good side'. When you presented the HIV information of the other boys, he already knew the others were HIV positive . . . it's a matter of public knowledge . . . yet he gave us a slight façade of shock. I didn't fall for it . . . did you?"

I smiled. "Jerry, you're right about the male/female thing. I was losing my objectivity when I put that to him . . . for lack of a better term . . . I was being motherly. You're right also, I was falling for his act when I saw his reaction while I was asking the HIV questions. I'm not convinced about the rest of it though, he's a very bitter young man, and there are a lot of excuses for him to be that way. Notwithstanding, I really don't feel that he wants to change to `the good side'. Murder . . . I can't tell, but I think he may be only one step away."

"We're on the same plane then. I'm glad we talked this out." Jerry said with a smile.

Recognizing that I indeed had a unique opportunity, I asked Professor Lee if I might interview Sam Austin to supplement the interview with Trey. Professor Lee cautioned that while doing so would be outside the scope of the original assignment, the added slant of comparing the two individuals was indeed intriguing. He suggested that I complete the original assignment based on the single interview as planned, but offered that I sign up for an independent summer study course for extra credit, based on completing a series of focused interviews with each of the subjects. The end result of the course would then, hopefully, be a manuscript that would be publishable. Now that opportunity would be a great way to get into the field!

The paper that came out of my single interview with Trey was, frankly, one of the best things I'd ever written, and Professor Lee obviously thought so as well, as he was effusive in his comments in marking it up. Not that there weren't helpful and pertinent criticisms as well, but the overall grade was a big fat A+, giving me a solid A for the course.

In the meantime, I signed up for an independent study course for the summer, and made arrangements through Professor Lee to meet with Trey on a weekly basis throughout the summer. I also contacted Sam Austin and asked if I could sit down with him on a regular basis and interview him about his past. Sam readily agreed.

Because I'd already interviewed Trey once, I thought I should start out with a general interview with Sam before proceeding with the targeted interviews we had planned, and so I met with Sam at his house one evening in early June. The contrast was immediately apparent, and I wondered if it was a fair comparison to begin with. Whereas Trey had continued to live in a poor inner city neighborhood since his abuse at camp, Sam came to live in a very affluent neighborhood on the city's north side, not unlike where I grew up. The house, while not a mansion, was modern, large and on a large, fenced-in piece of property with a pool in the back. Inside, the Austins had all the latest conveniences. Their cars were very nice - an Escalade and a Lexus for the parents and a Jetta for Trevor.

But then there was the fact that Sam was HIV-positive. There was no getting away from that. What a trade-off!

We sat in a very comfortable den for the interview, just off the kitchen, with some tortilla chips and a wonderful four-layer dip that Sam claimed he'd made himself.

"I'm always trying new things, Debbie," he told me. "We had Home Ec in school last semester and I learned some basic cooking skills, and I found I really like cooking. I like it a lot, so I'm trying new recipes whenever I can. Mom's thrilled because she doesn't have to cook nearly as much with me doing so much of the cooking now," Sam said with a laugh. His laugh was so infectious.

Sam really was a cute boy. Right away I could tell there was a world of difference between Trey and Sam. Maybe they had grown up in similar environments, but Sam was not Trey. Sam was relaxed, self-confident and intelligent. He was also incredibly handsome, and at five feet, ten inches or so in height and weighing perhaps one-forty, he looked much more normal for some reason. His blond hair was well kept and his blue eyes were piercing, but in a way that exuded warmth and empathy, rather than the steely cold of Trey's coppery eyes. They both had studs in their left ear, but that was about the only thing they had in common. It was weird, but Trey should have looked cute, but by the end of his interview, he looked more scary than anything.

Another big difference that was evident right away was the language. Sam's language was much more refined. He spoke with only the barest hint of an accent, whereas Trey had a fairly strong south Midwestern accent. Sam's vocabulary was extensive - in fact, it was hard to believe I was talking to a kid that just finished middle school. I asked him about that and he got a sad look on his face and admitted he'd been offered the chance to start high school as a sophomore, but turned it down.

"It turns out it really doesn't make much of a difference what I'm called," he said in lament. My courses next fall will be a mix of AP courses taken from across the curriculum, based on my test results. I'll be a freshman in name only, but my courses will be mostly at the sophomore and junior level. The only freshman course I'm taking is in math, but I'm taking a sophomore math course, too."

"God, Sam, it sounds like you're a genius," I stated.

"`Off the charts,' is what they say," Sam said, sadly. "I just want to be a normal teenager, but there are advantages," he said with a smile.

"How so," I asked.

Suddenly, Sam started speaking in a foreign language I didn't understand at all. It sounded like it must have been French, but since I don't speak a word of French, I couldn't have said what he was saying if my life depended on it.

Finally, I just put up my hands and said, "Sorry Sam, but I have no idea what language you're speaking in, let alone what you're saying."

"I just said that when my dad told me he'd take me to any country in the world if I could get an A in the first year of the associated foreign language, I found out that my middle school teaches French, Spanish, German, and Latin in the Eighth Grade. Unfortunately, the first semester of it was already almost over, but I was motivated enough to enroll in one of those Internet-based crash courses in French. Then I went to the French teacher at school and asked her in French if I could try taking the first semester exam and if I passed, if I could get into the course. She ended up giving me an oral exam as well as the written exam, I passed both and she let me in. Compared to the Internet course, the school's course was easy.

"Anyway, later this summer, we're going to go to Paris! God, I can't wait! I'm going to get to see the Louvre, the Musée d'Osray, the Pompidou Center, the Eiffel Tower, Sacré Coeur, Notre Dame and all the great art museums and sites in the greatest city of them all . . . maybe next to New York, that is."

In no way, shape or form was Sam anything like Trey. Sam was an extraordinary young man who had been rescued from a bad environment, thanks to the abuse scandal and his HIV status. But I needed to find out more, so asked him, "Sam, you've made an amazing turn around. You grew up on the street, the son of a crack-addicted mother, in and out of foster care, sexually abused at the church camp and then found to be HIV-positive. How'd you turn out so . . . amazingly well?" I asked.

"God, Debbie, what an embarrassing question," he commented before going on. "I think love had a lot to do with it. Growing up, I didn't really have any love, and my talents languished without me knowing they were even there. When Gary came along . . . Gary's the bastard who sexually abused me at the church camp . . . I mistook his advances toward me for love. That's why I welcomed them at first and I thought it was great that someone was actually paying attention to me.

"He asked me to go smoking with him . . . God, I can't believe I actually thought smoking was cool back then . . . and the sexual things we did together at first just seemed so grown up. But when he wanted to . . . putting it bluntly . . . fuck me, that's when I knew it was one-sided on his part, and there was no doubt what was going on when he threatened to kill me. Then there was the group sex, where he made me do things with other campers and recorded it on his camcorder. The idea that there may be videos of me doing it out in Cyberspace, still kind of creeps me out.

"But Debbie, with the Austins I've found real love. I have a real family with a wonderful brother and his fiancé, who's just as much my brother. Hell, he pretty much lives here now, and they'll be getting married next month . . . we're all so excited. My adoptive parents are absolutely the most wonderful people on earth. My best friend, Paul, lives just down the street, and I love him like a brother. He has Down's Syndrome, but thanks to our studying together, he's in regular classes now, and even though I'm skipping ahead, we still study together and I'm making sure to tutor him at his level so that he'll never fall behind.

"And then there's also my savior, Jesus Christ. Before I came to the Austins, I wasn't very religious at all. The Austins, however, insisted I go to church every week. Before, I wasn't so sure I believed in God. Now I do. Kurt, Trevor's fiancé, has taught me a lot about the Bible and I've learned that there's a lot more room for people with different backgrounds and different viewpoints, and even different orientations. God loves all his children . . . even me."

"I would say God especially loves you, Sam, to have given you such an extraordinary gift." I related.

"What you are is God's gift to you," Sam said to me, reciting the words of a poem he had apparently read or seen somewhere. "What you make of yourself is your gift to God."

"Wow, that's beautiful," I said, and I meant it. `What a contrast to Trey', I thought.

"Kurt keeps reminding me that we as Christians believe in Jesus as the Messiah, but that there are many paths of righteousness and truth. Jesus works for me. Jesus really is my savior, and some day, he'll save me from my HIV . . . I just know he will. But if I'd been born a Muslim, I'd still strive to seek truth through the word of the prophet Mohamed, or if born a Buddhist, I would seek enlightenment through the Buddha. It amazes me that Kurt plans to study all the world's religions. That's really ace. He's ace."

"You really love your family," I noted.

"I'm incredibly lucky, Debbie," he answered. "The street was bereft of love, and I shudder to think what would have happened to me if I'd stayed there.

"Trey is still there and still subjected to the same pressures I used to face. But what he did to the kid . . . Willie . . . I never could have done that. I would have killed myself before I'd hurt someone else that way."

"Different people react to the same pressures in different ways, Sam," I commented.

"I just hope I'm never, ever in a situation like that again," Sam said, "but I'm going to have to learn how to deal with kids like Trey. I want to be a teacher, and I want to teach in an inner city school. For me, it's the best way to give back what has been given to me. It's the best way to help kids who have so little. I know I'm going to face kids with problems like Trey's all the time. I may not be able to make up for what they don't have at home, but maybe if I can show them just a tiny fraction of the human caring they've never had, and the passion for learning that could lift them out of the hopelessness and despair of life on the streets, it can start them on a path toward something better. Not many of them can accomplish what I can, but at least some can start the journey. Once they see beyond the life they live now, that may be enough for them to seek a better life for themselves in the future."

"Sam, that's such a beautiful ambition," I said. "I have no doubt that you'll be one hell of a teacher."

"Or I'll die trying," he said with a nervous laugh.

"This layered dip is fantastic, by the way," I said as I finished the last of it.

"And it has absolutely no calories or fat in it," he said with a smirk.

"Really?" I asked.

"If you believe that, I have a bridge to sell you in Brooklyn."

"Very funny," I replied.

"And thanks for the compliment," he added as we headed to the door.

Talking to Sam had been a thoroughly enjoyable experience. Sam was a thoroughly calm, cool, collected teenager. He was also brilliant, and going places. It was hard to believe that a kid with his IQ was going to become a teacher. There are so many other things he could have done, and still could do, but he felt a sense of obligation to kids in the inner city that was laudable. I could only hope he didn't burn out in the end.

It was scarcely a week later that I was back in Professor Lee's office, interviewing Trey in the first of six planned formal interviews on pre-defined topics that would span a number of issues that he and Sam shared. Professor Lee and I had toyed with the idea of interviewing the two together so that their thoughts might bounce off each other, but then we concluded that having them together in the same room, they might just as easily suppress or contaminate each other's thoughts, which was the last thing we wanted to see happen.

The first interview was to be on the topic of drugs - the role they played in their lives, from their mothers' addictions, to the street culture itself, to the life of prostitution and/or petty crime their mothers engaged in to support their habits and so on. We would also talk about whether they were involved with drugs or saw themselves becoming involved in drugs in the future.

Walking into the office, Trey was already smoking a cigarette. This time there was no exchange of pleasantries. He barely looked up at me and seemed more annoyed to be there than anything.

"Guess I wasn't scary enough," he said with a smirk, "'cause you came back."

"And it's nice to see you again, too," I said with my own smirk as I sat down.

"Today, we're going to talk about drugs," I continued.

"Great, you got any?" he asked

"Very funny, Trey," I said. "What I'd like to know, first of all, is what you think about them. Are drugs good or bad, and what do you think about their role in your mother's life?"

"Good enough," Trey replied. "Basically, I see drugs as a necessary evil. I mean, they really messed up my mom's life and all, but if it hadn't been for drugs, how would she have tolerated life, man? She couldn't handle life, and so she found an escape. If she didn't have that escape, what would she have done? She lost custody of me because of her drug habit, but without the drugs, how would she have reacted to life's pressures? Well, I'll tell you, 'cause the few times she couldn't get her drugs, she took it out on me, and that was a hundred times worse. Were it not for drugs, she'd 'ave beat me to a pulp, sliced and diced me, and buried me in the back yard. She'd 'ave prolly joined me by committing suicide, ta boot.

"Yeah, drugs provide an escape for people who can't handle life."

"That's an interesting perspective, Trey," I answered. "In that vein, do you think drugs should be legalized? You know, take the drugs out of the hands of the drug dealers and put them into the hands of legitimate, legal channels under government regulation? The costs would be dramatically lower, and it would eliminate one of the largest sources of crime."

"Wow, what a sick idea! Why don't they do that, man? I mean, folks are gonna use drugs, regardless, so why not let the feds be the man and get their share of the cut? It'd lower taxes for everybody, and the price of the goods would be a lot less, too, 'cause there'd be no need to spend so much money on protection and the like."

"But what about drug addicts who might overdose and die if they have free access to drugs that were hard to get before, or about people getting addicted to drugs who might not have even tried them before because they were illegal?" I asked.

"Hey, it's `buyer beware,' isn't it?" he asked me back. "Look man, cigarettes are readily available. You can get smokes on any street corner and yet, with government regulation, the number of folks smoking has been falling steadily, year after year. You make drugs available, but run all sorts of ads telling people how bad the stuff is for them, you tax the drugs and regulate their sale, especially to minors, and drug use will go down compared to what it is now . . . not up." I had to admit, he had a good point, and yet . . .

"Still, you smoke, Trey, even though the sale of tobacco to minors is illegal. Do you use drugs?" I asked.

Instead of answering, he looked down at the floor. Finally, after a long pause, he answered, "yeah, sometimes."

"What do you use?" I asked.

"Mostly pot and of course a lotta beer, but I've tried pretty much everything. Methamphetamine, Coke, even heroin. You name it, I've tried it."

"How can you reconcile using drugs with the fact that your mother's an addict?" I asked. "Aren't you afraid you'll end up becoming a drug addict, too?"

"My mother's a crack addict and a whore," Trey answered. "That's very different from my occasional use. My mother uses drugs for escape. I use drugs for recreation with my friends. I use 'em for fun. That's way different."

"What about the criminal aspects of drugs?" I asked. "Your mother has had to resort to prostitution and petty crime to support her habit. How do you pay for your drugs, Trey?"

Coloring up, he replied, "Between you and me, and please don't write anything about this, but yeah, I've had to shoplift some stuff and even steal some car stereos to buy my drugs, so yeah, I've had to steal to get them. I guess that makes me like my mom after all, don't it?"

My session with Sam to discuss drugs was, not surprisingly, much shorter, and much more enjoyable, with the gazpacho he served. Sam didn't see any benefit to drugs and felt his mother would have been much better served by programs designed to get her into gainful employment. He saw a job paying real money with tangible rewards as being the best way to have helped his biological mother cope with life. As far as he was concerned, drugs only dragged her further and further down, delaying the inevitable day of reckoning, which he felt would be an early grave.

When I asked Sam about the possibility of legalizing drugs, after pondering it a bit, he said that while the idea was tempting, people would still need money to buy the drugs and with more people buying an increased supply, crime would ultimately go up. His answer to the problem remained an emphasis on a better education for all, better jobs and better opportunities, so there would be less of a desire for people to escape and therefore, less demand overall.

I asked Sam if he used drugs now or had ever used drugs. He admitted to having tried alcohol and marijuana when he lived on the street, but stated emphatically that he had no desire to use any mood altering drugs today. His life was his high, as he put it.

The next topic was to be on the topic of the rule of law on the street - in other words, how a kid survives in the system of foster care and group homes when the case workers are overloaded and no one seems to care.

When I showed up at Professor Lee's office for my next session with Trey, however, the professor sat me down and said, "There's been an incident."

"What do you mean?" I asked.

"Trey . . ." he started to tear up as he continued, "Trey's in jail. Not juvenile hall, but in jail. At least they're keeping him isolated, thank God. If he really did what he's alleged to have done, heaven help the kid."

"What do they say he did?" I asked.

"Do you remember the Timmy Watson case?" Professor Lee asked me.

"Oh yes I remember that case." I answered. It had happened nearly a year ago, in the fall. Timmy Watson was a nine-year-old boy who was riding home from school one day when he just disappeared and was never seen again. Police had scoured the neighborhood and turned up nothing. His bike was found abandoned in an alley that he might have been trying to use as a shortcut, but otherwise, there was no trace of him. The story received a lot of publicity, and it was still an open case.

Continuing, he said, "Timmy's body was found yesterday in Broad Ripple Park. Trey was living in a foster home near there at the time. The body had been sealed up in three layers of heavy-duty garbage bags and sealed with duct tape before being buried inside an old drain culvert. It was reasonably well protected in a makeshift tomb until some dogs got into it. They ripped right through the plastic trash bags. You don't want to know the details, but the police found Trey's fingerprints inside the trash bags, where he'd not been as careful. They searched the foster home and apparently they've turned up other evidence linking Trey to the murder."

"Oh God, no!" I shouted.

"If Trey was responsible, I can only hope that was his first and only murder," Professor Lee acknowledged.

"He's capable of it," I said, "and more."

"We both know that to be true, Debbie. Trey is a very troubled young man. He's a psychopath . . . perhaps a psychopathic killer."

"How do you deal with that, Professor Lee?" I asked. "Professionally, how do you divorce the fact that you're dealing with a potential serial killer from what you do in your office when you treat him? I mean, you have a professional obligation to treat him, don't you, but he could well go out and kill someone, and yet if you don't treat him, it could be so much worse? I'm not making any sense!" I practically screamed as I tried in vein to formulate what I wanted to say.

"I know what you're trying to say, Debbie." Professor Lee said. "Fortunately, patients like Trey are few and far between. Most of my patients are simple neurotics and pretty easy to deal with. Not that we can cure them any more easily but they just need someone to talk to and they'll be fine. But occasionally we do get a true psychopath who is beyond reproach. No amount of counseling or behavior modification or medication will change their behavior, and we have a real dilemma on our hands. Until they commit a crime, we cannot lock them up. Unless they tell us they are going to commit a crime, we cannot do anything about it, but if they do tell us, we are obligated to warn the potential victims, even as we must protect our patients' privacy. We're often damned if we do and damned if we don't.

"With someone like Trey, our best hope is to get them young enough that we can start behavior modification early . . . help them to channel their malevolent behavior into more socially acceptable pathways. That's what I have been doing with him for two years now. Unfortunately, I more than likely started this approach a good seven or eight . . . maybe even ten years too late, given his history. He needed to start as a toddler. In any case, we did what we could, and that's all we could do.

"If he did in fact murder that child, society will probably lock him away for a long, long time. If he's lucky, they'll find a way to lock him up for life. He'll be much better off in prison than on the outside. Once released as an adult sexual predator, his life will truly be hell.

"I guess this isn't doing much to interest you in a career in Psychology, though, is it Debbie?" Professor Lee concluded.

"On the contrary," I said, "I find all of this fascinating. In fact, I wouldn't mind finishing those interviews with Trey, even if I have to conduct them in prison."

"Really," the professor said. "Now that's dedication." Picking up his telephone, he said, "Let me see if I can make the arrangements. It will probably take a little time to set things up, but at least I can leave a message while I have you here."

As the professor talked into the phone, his face grew forlorn and he said, "I see . . . I see . . . When? . . . How?"

He had a blank, unreadable expression on his face as he turned to me and sighed deeply. "Debbie, they take extraordinary precautions against such a thing, but in spite of this, Trey managed to take his own life this morning. It seems he was a very determined and resourceful young man. He was on suicide watch and had no shoelaces and only paper clothing, but he nevertheless managed to braid his pants to create a rope with which he hanged himself."

"I wish I could say I feel sad," I said, "but I don't," I admitted. "I just wished we all knew, as you said, that this was his first and only murder. Now we may never know for sure, and that's the real tragedy here.

"So how do we salvage my summer course, and can we still publish something, and what do I need to do to become a practicing psychologist?" I asked my mentor.

"Wow! Even after all this, you really think you'd like to do this for a living? I mean, for me it's really a wonderful, rewarding field, but I would have thought this whole episode would have turned you off."

Laughing, I said, "It'll take a lot more than a psychopathic teenage killer to turn me away from helping people. You and your mother are wonderful people. Cathy and I could do a whole lot worse than to end up like you two. I know my better half has a more analytical mind and Engineering or something along those lines is more her cup of tea, but for me, it's Psychology all the way. . . ."

We actually did manage to publish a paper out of my interviews with Trey and Sam, and the paper was chosen as the paper of the year by the American Psychology Association. In addition, I won the Association's student paper competition and between the two awards, took home a hefty scholarship that helped pay much of my next year's tuition.

More importantly, Professor Lee, or Chris as Cathy and I would come to call him, has become a close personal friend, and he and his mother are very much members of our extended family. We're no longer paying rent on that duplex either. With a little help from our parents, we bought our half from Emma and plan to put down roots and stay there permanently.

Our little Larry? Thanks to Emma's help and understanding, he's the sweetest, most charming baby. Our parents couldn't be happier.

The author gratefully acknowledges the invaluable assistance of David of Hope in editing and Alastair in proofreading my stories, as well as Gay Authors, Awesome Dude and Nifty for hosting them.

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