Disclaimer: This may contain male/male situations. If you are not old enough to read stories containing sexual situations, or of it is illegal in your area, Leave Now. If you have accidently stumbled onto this GAY website and are offended by relationships involving two males, you’ve been warned. All characters and settings are a product of the author’s imagination and should not be mistaken as real in any way, shape or form. Comments/questions send to email@example.com
Thanks to Jim for editing!
“That’s Jay,” Frank insisted, still staring at Oliver. “I’ve met Jeremy.”
“No,” Oliver said, shaking his head as he took another retreating step back. “Jeremy.”
Jay cleared his throat intentionally, dusting himself off as he stood up off the ground. “Jeremy,” he agreed, not bothering to look at Oliver or Frank as he checked to see that his camera wasn’t damaged. “That was Jeremy Hill you met. We’re in the same class; he’s older, so I got the nickname. Everyone’s been calling me Jay since second grade.”
Frank looked at the panicked look on Oliver’s face, the disgustingly calm one on Jay’s, and realized that it didn’t matter what name should be used as he suddenly lunged forward, grabbing Jay by the shirt and shaking him. “Why the fuck were you spying on us?” he demanded.
“Hey, watch it!” Jay retorted, shaking Frank off and shoving him away.
“Answer me!” Frank ordered.
“Oh, fuck you!” Jay snapped, then suddenly glared at Oliver. “And you too, you retarded-ass freak!”
Frank stepped in front of Oliver quickly, his temper nearly breaking over Jay’s insulting words. But, he managed to hold it in check long enough to look back at Oliver, who was clearly shaken by the encounter. “Oliver,” he said quietly. “Go home.”
“I’ll be right behind you,” Frank said. “I promise.”
Oliver frowned, looking torn. It was obvious he didn’t want to be anywhere near Jay--or Jeremy--but he didn’t want to leave Frank, either. “Right behind me, Frank?” he asked.
“I promise,” Frank said again; and then quickly added, “Don’t tell your mom about this, Oliver.”
Frank was looking at Jay again as he heard Oliver’s footsteps fade away somewhere behind him, not liking the way that Jay seemed to be watching Oliver go with some obvious contempt. “Why are you spying on us?” Frank repeated, drawing Jay’s attention back to himself.
Curiously, when Jay looked at Frank he didn’t appear nearly as hostile as he seemed when it came to Oliver. “I saw you heading over here a while ago. Thought I’d see what you were up to.”
Frank’s shoulder’s stiffened as he took a threatening step towards Jay. He was in no mood for games, but it seemed that Jay was determined to make things hard for him as he straightened and smirked, subtly reminding Frank that they were evenly enough matched, and Jay didn’t find him intimidating at all.
“Hiding in the bushes with a camera?” Frank demanded, eyeing the piece of equipment. “What’s on the film?”
Frank reached for the camera, but Jay held it back. “Hey, hands off!”
“Fine,” Frank retorted. “I’ll just let the cops take it after I tell them where to find pictures of my little sister!”
“Hey!” Jay said, looking offended. “You’ve got it wrong, Frank.”
“You were outside my house,” Frank stated. “My twelve-year-old sister’s window!”
“Yes,” Jay said flatly, but then spoke quickly when the look on Frank’s face turned murderous. “But I didn’t know it was her window. I saw someone moving inside, and snapped the picture. She was never supposed to see me, and I’m sorry if I scared her.”
“What were you doing there in the first place?”
“I was curious.”
“You attacked us!”
“Only because I was cornered.”
“No,” Frank said, shaking his head. “You weren’t cornered. We were about to walk away!”
“I didn’t attack you!” Jay retorted, beginning to sound irritated.
“No. You went straight for Oliver!” Frank snapped. David was right. It was Oliver who Jay had been there spying on; Oliver who Jay had attacked. Frank just happened to have gotten in the way.
“So the fuck what?” Jay finally snapped.
“So the fuck what?” Frank angrily moved forward, giving Jay a hard shove to the chest that failed to knock him down. “Oliver wouldn’t hurt anyone! Why would you want to hurt him!” At the moment, it didn’t matter to Frank that he knew there was a side to Oliver that perhaps did deserve a good beating. All that mattered was that Oliver was innocent. He didn’t deserve any of this, and it infuriated him. “What the hell’s the matter with you? I swear to god, if you don’t stay away from him...”
“Hey, that was the first time I ever came close to hurting him!” Jay responded, sounding as if he knew it was wrong, but had no apologies for it.
“But you’ve been watching him!”
“Yeah. All of them... and you, because you keep hanging out with him! Do you even have any idea what you’re doing?”
“I’m more worried about what you’re doing! Where I come from there’s a word for it, asshole: stalking!”
Jay had the nerve to look offended over that, too. “There’s a difference!”
“Because I’m waiting for someone in that house to fuck up!” he shouted, suddenly breathing heavily as he looked through the woods, towards the Martin house. “There’s something off in that house, Frank... something isn’t right with that family. I can’t prove it yet, but when I do...”
Frank swallowed hard, wiping the sudden outbreak of sweat away from his top lip. His nerves were causing him to feel nauseous, and for a long, suffocating moment, he tried to figure out what Jay was talking about. Oliver. If he’d been watching, then Jay knew something was wrong with him. Maybe he’d seen David do something--something terrible--that would cause him to hate Oliver so much. But then, Jay wouldn’t know that it hadn’t been Oliver. He’d be out to hurt him, anyway, and if he acquired proof of David doing something else... Oliver could be punished. Oliver would be the one who suffered, and faced with this, Frank decided that he’d do anything to stop it from happening. The Martins were right. David had to go. And at the moment, so did Jeremy “Jay” Flaskis.
“Listen to me, Jay,” Frank said, attempting to sound reasonable. “You don’t know what you’re doing. You’ve gotta leave them alone. I don’t know what you think the Martins are capable of... but you’ve got it wrong. They just wanna be left alone. That’s it.”
Jay regarded Frank as if he were speaking another language. “I can’t,” he finally said, and then let out a breath as he met Frank’s eyes. “Not until I find the truth. Can you give me that, Frank?”
Frank stared at Jay for a hard moment before he shook his head. “No... but I can give you one hell of a hard time if I catch you sneaking around again.”
Jay actually smiled at that. “We’ll see.” He looked down at his camera, fidgeted with it for a moment, and then slid it into his pocket before he suddenly turned and started walking away. But, he didn’t go before he turned to look back at Frank. “You don’t seem like a bad guy, Frank. You don’t belong being mixed up with those people... Just don’t forget I tried to warn you.”
Frank would have been unable to explain why he felt it was urgent to get back to Oliver. It wasn’t as if Jay had headed back towards the Martin house; he’d gone in the opposite direction. But Frank still ran, not sure if he felt better or worse about learning the identity of the person doing the spying. He didn’t even know if he felt better learning that it wasn’t his family who was drawing unwanted attention. All he knew was that he was worried, and had no idea where to go from here.
Involving the local law had been an empty threat when he’d attempted to warn Jay off. He doubted that Howard Crook could help him in any way, and unfortunately, Frank was pretty sure that Jay knew that, too, which is why he didn’t seem to care what Frank did in that area. In fact, Jay didn’t seem very concerned with a lot of things... except perhaps discovering the Martins’ secrets. That’s the part that worried Frank. He wasn’t sure exactly when it had happened, but it came to mind that he’d made himself responsible for Oliver--for protecting Oliver. He didn’t know if it was due to his feelings for the boy, or against Oliver’s parents. Perhaps it was a little of both. But either way, Frank didn’t like the threat that Jay presented, and he felt like he was on his own to stop it. For the briefest moment he’d entertained the idea of warning the Martins about Jay. But, something in his gut warned him against it--something that he couldn’t explain, but became more disturbing each time he thought of Mary and Brian Martin.
Frank wondered if he should warn Oliver when he got back to him. He felt like he should say something, even if Oliver wouldn’t provide any insight into the situation. That was the most frustrating thing to Frank. He knew that Oliver wasn’t telling him everything that he knew. He just wished that he knew if that was because Oliver didn’t want to, or if he couldn’t.
The Martin house hadn’t even come into sight before Frank stopped abruptly, turning in circles as he sought out the voice that had called his name. “Oliver?”
“I’m right here, Frank,” Oliver said, and when Frank turned again, he nearly stumbled backwards Oliver was so close.
“I told you to go home!” Frank snapped, annoyed even though he had to admit that it was probably good that Oliver didn’t. Once inside his house, Frank wasn’t sure he’d be able to get Oliver away from Mary again.
Oliver crossed his arms, frowning. “I didn’t want to go home,” he said defiantly, and then looked worried. “Did you tell him, Frank? Did you tell him it wasn’t me that hurt his dog?”
Frank frowned, not sure how to respond to that. If anything had happened with Jay’s dog, he had a feeling that Jay was almost right to threaten Oliver over it, especially if Jay didn’t know about David.
“We didn’t talk about the dog,” Frank said. “Look... Oliver, have you noticed Jay--Jeremy; have you noticed Jeremy around here before? Anywhere near you?”
Oliver cocked his head. “I see him sometimes, Frank... but then I don’t let him see me. He gets mad when he sees me.”
True, Frank agreed, but obviously Jay had more control than that. “He said he’d been watching you. You, and your family.” Frank looked up to meet Oliver’s eyes, wishing that he could see something other than confusion there. “He knows you have secrets, Oliver... he could find out about David. If he does that.”
“He can’t do that,” Oliver suddenly said, his serious tone surprising Frank. “He can’t do that, Frank.”
Frank stared at Oliver for a long moment, deciding that Oliver didn’t mean it was impossible. He just meant it would be a seriously bad thing if it happened. Frank took a step closer to him. “So you do understand,” Frank said, more to himself than to Oliver. He felt like he’d just discovered something important, but it was short-lived as he was distracted by the way Oliver suddenly grabbed his head, as if he were in pain.
“We can’t let him do that, Frank!”
“Then help me!” Frank stated, grabbing Oliver’s shoulders, shaking him until Oliver looked him in the eyes again. “I think David knew what Jay was doing. He knew something. Oliver, I think David did something... I don’t know if it was to Jeremy’s dog, or something else, but he isn’t going to let this go, and I think David knew it.”
“I know,” Oliver whispered.
“What? What do you mean?” Frank demanded. “You know what Frank did, or you know he knew about Jeremy?”
“Frank...” Oliver suddenly frowned, pulling away, but Frank was quick to catch his hand and pull him back.
“Talk to me.”
“He wanted Jeremy to know. He wanted everyone to know. But he can’t, because it makes my parents mad, Frank. That’s why they made him go away, Frank,” Oliver said, dropping his voice into a secretive whisper. “He can’t tell. No one can. There are things you’re not supposed to see, Frank. No one can see.”
“Like what? What did David want Jeremy to know?”
Oliver took in a deep breath as his eyes darted anywhere but towards Frank’s face, and his red eyes began to water as he shook his head. “The bad things.”
Frank felt a chill work up his spine. He almost didn’t want to ask his next question. David could be violent. He already knew that. What he didn’t want to know, was that David was dangerous. He really didn’t want to know that Jay could be right, that he had a real reason for his apparent disdain for the Martins. “The things that David did?” Frank knew the answer as soon as he asked the question; it was written all over Oliver’s face. But he wasn’t sure he understood. David wanted to tell. He wanted to be caught. It didn’t make sense to Frank. But then again, nothing made much sense to Frank anymore. Perhaps David thought that telling someone of his wrongdoings was what he wanted because it would make him real. Maybe he wanted people to know he existed--the Martins were doing everything they could to make him disappear. Maybe telling would be his way of winning. To hurt them.
“No one can know, Frank,” Oliver said quietly. “If he tells, he’ll get in trouble. I don’t want him to get in trouble, Frank. He’s not bad.”
Frank closed his eyes for a moment, unable to face the desperation Oliver was directing at him. It was as if he needed Frank to agree with him. Frank almost wanted to, because in a sense, if Frank said that David wasn’t bad, then he was saying that Oliver wasn’t bad. He wondered if that was what Oliver was thinking. Oliver had always referred to David as a different person. Frank believed that he saw David as a different person. But, Frank was beginning to wonder if deep down, Oliver understood what he was. Maybe he simply wanted David to exist as much as David did. But, Frank couldn’t tell him it was okay. Instead, he reached out and pulled Oliver to him, wrapping his arms around his neck, allowing Oliver to lean on him as he considered what he should do.
The bad things. Those words could have meant anything, but in David’s case, they frightened Frank. He didn’t want to know. He wanted to forget about David. David hadn’t made an appearance since Frank had discovered the truth, and Frank wanted it to stay that way. The problem was, Frank didn’t know how long that would last. And he had to know. He needed to know what he was dealing with because the questions were becoming too much, and if he didn’t find answers soon, he was afraid that the only place he’d have left to go would be crazy.
Frank took in a breath against Oliver’s neck, inhaling the scent of lemons as he held the other boy tighter. “You’re right,” he said firmly. “We can’t let David tell, Oliver.” His fingers moved through Oliver’s hair for a moment, feeling the scars before he pushed him back to see his face. “I want to tell him that, Oliver. I want to make him understand why he can’t tell. We don’t want him to get in trouble, right?” He was being manipulative, but Frank wasn’t about to apologize for it. His last attempt to talk to David had failed miserably, but this time, Oliver was actually regarding him thoughtfully. Perhaps a little cautiously, too, but he was at least thinking about it.
“Maybe he won’t listen, Frank,” Oliver finally said.
Frank frowned. “But maybe he will... Does he listen to you, Oliver?”
Oliver frowned as he took one of Frank’s hands in both of his and stared down at it for a long moment.
“I’m not supposed to talk to David anymore, Frank. I have to wait.”
“Until it’s safe?” Frank asked, remembering the conversation that Oliver had had with the David he couldn’t see in his own bedroom.
“You know you’re safe with me, don’t you?” Frank asked.
Oliver looked around them as he used his free hand to wipe his remaining tears away. “Not here, Frank,” he whispered. “We have to go to the place.”
“What place?” Frank asked. But, once again, he didn’t get a straight answer.
“It’s a secret, right Frank? You have to promise.”
“I promise,” Frank said, and then fell nervously silent as Oliver started walking, leading him by the hand. Frank wanted to know where they were going, or why they had to go anywhere at all, but he didn’t dare ask. He didn’t ask anything, fearing that Oliver would change his mind.
They’d been walking for about five minutes when Oliver abruptly dropped Frank’s hand and Frank looked at him, feeling on edge. He almost expected to see some sort of transformation: David’s cold stare, or condescending smirk. But the wide eyes and searching glances were still Oliver. The fear was Oliver, and Frank took notice.
“What’s wrong?” Frank asked.
“Will you be there again, Frank?” Oliver asked. “If they put me in the dark?”
Frank felt his stomach knot. “No one’s putting you in the dark, Oliver... I thought you said you don’t remember how you get there. Do you now?”
Oliver’s brow knotted, and he looked ahead. “I don’t know if David will talk to you, Frank,” Oliver said, and Frank raised an eyebrow over the obvious subject change.
“I’m patient,” Frank replied shortly. “But I’m confused, Oliver. About the things you can’t remember... Do you forget after bad things happen? Is that why you can’t remember? Because you don’t want to?”
Oliver heaved a breath, as if Frank was the one exasperating him. “My head doesn’t work right sometimes, Frank. “There are things, Frank. The things we’re not supposed to see.”
Frank walked faster, to keep pace with Oliver’s agitated one. Those words seemed to be becoming a theme. “Who told you that?” Frank asked.
Oliver glanced at Frank sidelong for a brief moment, his eyes seeming cautious. “David did.”
Samuel Seaberg stood in front of what he refrained from calling the ruins his children lived in, watching his youngest splash around waist deep with her friend. She seemed happy enough. But then, Rudy had always been able to find something to be cheerful about. Frank used to be like that, Sam thought bitterly. And it wasn’t Frank who he was bitter towards. The situation, himself... that sounded about right. Of course, it wasn’t necessary for Sam to remind himself that it was his own fault Frank had become so insufferable towards him. He had his ex-wife on standby to remind him of that, and everything else he’d done wrong, it seemed. Not that he didn’t deserve it. He definitely had it coming after the first thing he did upon his arrival was criticize her and the way she was living. It had been a defense mechanism. To make himself feel better about his wrongs, he’d tried to point out all of hers. But apparently, Sam had been away from Jessica for too long, because he’d foolishly forgotten that she could see right through all of that, and now he’d unfortunately managed to get on her bad side.
But, it seemed that Jessica’s opinion of him wasn’t as important to Sam as Frank’s was, and he’d completely underestimated how well his son could hold a grudge. All things considered, Sam should have seen this coming. It wasn’t as if Frank had given him any hint that he’d be happy to see him. Hell, he’d downright refused to speak to him on the phone, and it seemed that now, every minute that Sam was present, Frank made sure that he was not. Or at least, he was making sure that he didn’t have to endure a moment alone with his father, and it was making it rather difficult for the two to have a conversation, Sam noticed.
“I want to take Frank on a little road trip tomorrow... or something like that. I want to get him away from here, where he has fewer places to run away to,” Sam said ten minutes later as he walked into his ex-wife’s bedroom as she finished tying back her curtains to better keep an eye on Rudy.
Jessica frowned as she faced him, but it wasn’t just because of what he was saying. Sam had made himself at home in her house since he’d arrived, despite his initial criticisms of it, something she wasn’t so sure how she felt about yet. But one thing was certain: entering her bedroom was crossing the line.
“Well that’s something you’re going to have to talk to Frank about,” she responded as she advanced in a way that forced him to backpedal until he was standing in the hall.
“I want you to talk to him about it,” Sam said. “He’ll listen to you.”
Jessica’s mouth curled into a humorless smile. “Not about this, he won’t. I can talk to him, but I won’t force him, Sam... besides, I’m not the one he needs to talk to. You broke it, you fix it.”
Sam sighed as Jessica passed him, and he followed her to the living room. “I’m trying.”
“I know you are.”
“But it’s not working.”
“That’s because you came here assuming a few apologies would make up for everything else,” Jessica said simply.
“Because he’s angry,” Sam said, frowning; and then in poor taste, added, “I see he’s developed your temper.”
Jessica turned to face him sternly. “He’s hurt, Sam. You’re upset that you can’t get him to talk to you, but don’t forget that you’re the one who stopped talking to Frank first. He doesn’t trust you anymore, and it’s not something you can change overnight. That’s something you have to earn back, and I’ll tell you right now that me talking to Frank won’t make a difference in whether or not he forgives you. Talk to him yourself.”
“Well that’s not exactly easy to do when he’s never here!” Sam said hotly, but then released a breath and calmed his tone. “I don’t want to leave things the way they are now, Jess. I know I’ve made mistakes, and I’ll probably never stop being sorry for them, but... I need to make things right with the kids again. I miss them.”
Jessica frowned. “I believe you, Sam... but you’re saying it to the wrong person. Listen, all of this is going to take time, especially with Frank. If you don’t have that.... This just isn’t something you can do over a weekend, Sam. These are children--your children! If you want it to work, you’ll have to make a commitment to them, and not one that expires as soon as you decide they’re an inconvenience!”
“Jesus!” Sam cursed, dropping onto the sofa behind him.
Jessica frowned. She hadn’t meant for this conversation to turn into a lecture. Although, she did think it was called for. She didn’t like that Frank felt driven away from his own home, and she didn’t like that Frank had a point when it came to staying away. He didn’t want to get hurt again, and the simple fact was, Jessica didn’t want to see him hurt again. “I’m sorry, Sam, but if you ever hurt one of my kids again...”
“I was a father once,” he suddenly cut her off. “I mean...I was really their father. Wasn’t I?”
Jessica sighed and took a seat on a chair across from him. “Not a half bad one, either,” she reluctantly admitted. “But you walked out on them, Sam, not the other way around. It’s going to be up to Frank, whether or not he forgives you for that... and you’d better make him want to, Sam, because the thing is, he needs you. Both of them do... but right now, especially Frank.”
Sam sat back on the couch and studied Jessica for a long moment before he asked the question he should have been asking all along. “How is he, Jessica... I mean, when I’m not around making him like this?”
She smiled. “He’s growing up a little too fast. Ever since we got here...well, I think he’s trying to be the man of the house, you know? Looking after his sister... trying to look after me... But I’m worried about him, Sam. I knew he wasn’t happy, especially about moving, but you know Frank. He’s a survivor, and I really thought that once we settled in, he’d be alright. I wanted to give him and Rudy a chance to start over...”
“But?” Sam asked.
“I think trying to grow up too fast has been pretty hard for him. He doesn’t talk to me the way he used to talk to you, and I think he’s had trouble making friends.”
Sam snorted. “No, Frank’s never had trouble with that. He had the kid spending the night...”
Jessica nodded. “Oliver... a neighbor.” She paused for a moment, and decided not to mention Frank’s paranoid behavior when it came to the Martin family. “But, that’s the thing, Oliver’s his only friend.”
“Well, maybe he likes the kid.”
“You haven’t really met Oliver,” Jessica replied. “I’m not saying he’s bad for Frank, it’s just... he’s a little strange, and I think it would be best if Frank made some other friends. He shouldn’t be spending all of his time with one person, anyway.”
“Well, if you think me telling Frank to stop hanging around his only friend is going to help...”
“No, that’s not what I’m saying, Sam. But if you talked to him... or if you can get him talking to you... He needs to talk to someone, Sam. Even if it’s you.”
Frank felt too tired to even scratch his head as he watched Oliver duck down as he cautiously made his way through the terrain ahead of him. Feeling mentally drained, and not in the mood for games, Frank walked along normally behind him, looking through the scattered trees casting thin, long shadows over the ground.
“I thought you said we were almost there,” Frank complained.
Oliver looked over his shoulder, appearing outraged when he saw that Frank wasn’t following his instructions to be careful, and yanked him down by the wrist. “Shh, Frank!”
Groaning, Frank stayed down as he allowed Oliver to lead the way. “What are we doing, Oliver?” he whispered.
Oliver looked back again. “You said you wanted to tell David not to tell,” Oliver reminded him.
“Yeah, but can’t I do that now?” Frank asked.
Oliver only frowned, and pulled him along another five feet before he came to an abrupt halt, and Frank suddenly found himself flat on the ground, his elbows scraped, and his temper flaring. “What the...” he started, but when Oliver, still looking straight ahead, slapped a hand over Frank’s mouth, Frank took a curious moment to pay more attention to his surroundings.
He heard the footsteps before he saw the person making them, and Frank found himself holding his breath as he shifted closer to Oliver and watched Mary Martin pass right by them. Her eyes were focused straight ahead, her pace was brisk; she was a woman who knew exactly where she was going. After a moment of thinking about it, it occurred to Frank that they weren’t very far from the Martins’ house at all, and he wondered if she’d been out looking for Oliver. But then, he didn’t see why she’d do that with an empty laundry basket under her arm.
“We have to hurry, Frank,” Oliver said as soon as Mary had passed, and instinct forced Frank to agree as helped Oliver to his feet and they abandoned sneaking through the trees to running through them, Oliver easily taking the lead as if there was no doubt when it came to which way he needed to go.
Frank kept up easily, until Oliver passed under a hanging rope, where Frank paused and stared for a moment. The frayed end of the old rope was dangling from a tall tree, as if waiting for something to be connected to it. At one time, something likely was, he decided, realizing that there was something about the spot that suggested at one time, it had been frequently visited. He looked past the rope to Oliver, wondering if they were headed to one of the spots the other boy frequently visited, and Frank couldn’t help wondering why he chose this one as his safe place to talk to David, when it was obviously visited by more than just Oliver.
“Come on, Frank,” Oliver insisted.
Nodding, Frank moved past the dangling line and followed Oliver through the brush, holding back a sneeze as random patches of wallflowers irritated his allergies. It seemed sunnier all of a sudden, and he could hear the sound of trickling water as he noticed the moisture somewhere beneath the tall grass he was walking through. Looking down, he wondered if it was completely necessary that his socks were becoming soggy and didn’t notice that Oliver had stopped, until he practically ran into him under the shade of a thick tree.
“Is this it?” Frank asked as he looked around, noticing that the spot had definitely had some traffic. In fact, it looked like someone had been dumping just behind the tree as he noticed stacks of nail-ridden wooden posts and a cluttered stack of old boards that were likely infested with insects he’d rather not think about. Oliver only nodded, leaving Frank to stare at him expectantly. “Well? Can I talk to David now?”
Oliver shrugged, frowning. “I guess so, Frank.”
Feeling self-conscious, and still frustrated, Frank looked around again. “Is he here?” he asked.
Oliver let out a breath, and sat on the stack of boards, not seeming to care that the wood was soaked through from the last storm. “He’s here, Frank.”
“Can you...see him?”
Oliver’s eyes narrowed. “Can you?”
“No.” Frank desperately wished that he knew how this was supposed to work. “So, how do I talk to him, Oliver?”
“I don’t know. You just say somethin’, I guess.”
“Okay...” Frank said slowly, looking at Oliver. “Um... David? Can you hear me?” It seemed like the stupidest question, and Frank felt like a fool standing there asking it, but he supposed he was just following instructions, which is why he didn’t at all expect the response he got.
“Not like that, Frank!” Oliver suddenly snapped, rising to his feet. You’ve gotta be louder! David! David! David!” Oliver passed Frank, red in the face as he shouted out the name, startling Frank so bad that he jumped before reaching out to grab Oliver’s arm and pull him back.
“Hey! What’re you doing?” Frank demanded, shaking him.
“Talking to David!” Oliver snapped. “That’s why you wanted to come, Frank, to talk to David! Why aren’t you talking to him?”
“Oliver, I’m trying...”
“Then talk to him, Frank! Make him say something!”
“Make him? Just...are you playing games with me?” Frank demanded in a sudden burst of anger.
“This is not a game, Frank! This is where I talk to David!” Oliver shouted, pointing to where he stood to emphasize his point.
“You were talking to him the other night in my bedroom!” Frank retorted, and Oliver fell silent, crossing his arms.
“But this is where David talks to me, Frank,” Oliver said. “He talks to me right here.”
“And is he?” Frank asked.
Oliver shook his head, sniffling again. “Mama--my mom says he’s just a voice,” Oliver whispered. “A voice in my head,” he explained, looking completely wrecked over the idea. “I’m not supposed to listen to him anymore, but he still talks... right here.”
“Then why isn’t he?” Frank asked, attempting to keep calm. He didn’t understand. He’d encountered David’s personality before. He knew it was there. But, unless Oliver had more control over it than his parents let on, it almost didn’t make sense that David hadn’t made an appearance yet, especially if what Oliver told Frank was true, and David wanted to be heard.
“I don’t know, Frank... he stopped talking. He stopped talking to me.”
“What? When? When did he...”
“I came this morning,” Oliver explained, his breathing becoming choppy in his rushed words. “But he wouldn’t talk to me! Is he gone, Frank? Why won’t he talk to me? Make him say something, Frank! Make him!”
Make him? Frank took a step back, stared at Oliver in disbelief, and suddenly raised his hands as a sign of his mental defeat. “I give up... I just, give the fuck up.”
“But, Frank,” Oliver pleaded, only to be presented with Frank’s hand again.
“Look, this is too much for me, okay? I don’t know what I’m supposed to be doing here, Oliver, and whatever it is, I obviously, can’t, alright? So this thing with David... it’s just gotta stop. With you... and me. No more of it, okay? Shit, I’m sorry I ever brought it up.”
“Are you going to leave again, Frank?”
Frank sighed, but actually considered the question. “No,” he finally said. He already felt bad enough for abandoning Oliver the first time. Doing it again, simply wasn’t an option for him. Not when he knew exactly what that felt like. “Let’s go.”
“Where are we going, Frank?”
“I don’t know... but not back to your place.”
“My mom won’t...”
“I really don’t care if she won’t like it, Oliver,” Frank stated. “Look, I think you need help, and I can’t give it to you, so we’re gonna have to go somewhere else.”
Oliver’s mouth dropped open in protest, but he closed it as Frank stepped forward, holding out his hand.
“Do you trust me, Oliver?”
It wasn’t clear by Oliver’s expression whether he had a positive answer to that question or not, but he did take Frank’s hand.
“It’s gonna be okay,” Frank said, and deep down, he really wanted to believe that. “I promised I wouldn’t leave, remember?”
“I remember, Frank,” Oliver said blankly.
Frank frowned, squeezing his hand and pulling him closer. “And I meant it.”
“I know, Frank. But David said that once, too.”
Brian was tired when he walked through his front door. It had been a long day at work, and all he wanted was a hot bath and a fulfilling meal. But, it seemed that his wife wasn’t going to allow him either, when he found his wife in their bedroom, packing suitcases that hadn’t been used in years.
“What the hell do you think you’re doing, woman?” he demanded as he watched her shove a few of his Sunday shirts on top of a pile of her undergarments.
She spun around, looking frantic. “We’re leaving, Brian,” she said, matter-of-factly. “There’s no more choice in the matter. We’ve gotta start over. We can go... anywhere, anywhere, Brian....”
“Hold on a damn minute,” he said, grabbing her arm and seating her on the bed. “What are you going on about?”
“That boy was here again--Frank. Oliver’s gonna say something to him, Brian, I just know he is.”
Brian laughed. “So what? He already thinks Oliver’s crazy.”
“Then why is he still coming around here?” Mary demanded. “It’s over, Brian! He took Oliver no more than twenty minutes ago. I saw ‘em both sneaking off in that boat! We’re gonna have to grab Oliver before we leave.”
Mary stood to continue her packing, and Brian watched for several long moments, his expression becoming grimmer with each passing one. “Just grab him, huh?” he finally said. “Why not just leave him here?”
“What?” Mary demanded, stopping with her favorite dress between her two shaking hands.
“It would be easier for you, wouldn’t it? You’re already running away, starting over... Why not just leave him? He’s better off without you, anyway, don’t you think? I mean, hell, you already killed one son. Why not just leave this one?”
Mary’s bottom lip quivered as she looked at her husband disbelievingly. “Why are you doing this, Brian?” she demanded. “You know I never meant...”
“Maybe Oliver’s better off without you,” Brian said, and then snorted irritably. “Unpack your bags, darling. We’re not leaving.”
“But didn’t you hear me?” Mary demanded. “He’s going to say something to Frank! You can’t possibly think...”
“I’m gonna fix that,” Brian promised. “Why don’t you do something useful now, like make dinner.”
Mary’s eyes widened as her husband left the room. She dropped her dress, and followed him so slowly that the front door had slammed before she even made it to the living room. She went to the window and watched him get into his truck, and she felt like her heart had just stopped. Trapped.
Fix that. She’d heard those words before. This time, she couldn’t let him. Things had gone far enough.
Mary waited until the truck’s engine started before she went to the phone, gasping when her foot caught on the floor rug and she tripped. Catching herself on the floor, she pulled herself up and reached for the receiver. There were only a few people in town who she knew would come out and actually help her. Unfortunately, the most incompetent one was the only number she had memorized, and she dialed it.
“Brenda...” Mary said when the other line was answered. “Is Howard in, it’s Mary Martin... Oh, I see. Well, when’s he going to get back? I really need to speak to him. Please. It’s an emergency.... yes, that would be great, if you could, Brenda... like I said, it’s urgent, and I don’t know...” Mary gasped as a large hand came down gently on her shoulder, which stiffened under the contact.
“Put the phone down, Mary,” Brian said quietly from behind her. “I told you, I’m gonna take care of everything.”
“She’s not gonna hurt you,” Frank said quietly as he watched Oliver stare down at the unwanted intruder in his lap. No sooner had Oliver seated himself on Frank’s bed, one of the dark, scraggly stray felines had turned him into furniture. Oliver objected to the treatment.
“Get it off, Frank.”
Frank slowly sat down next to Oliver, and as requested, removed the cat from his lap, placing it gently on the floor before he looked at Oliver again. “Are you alright?” Frank asked.
“I just don’t like cats, Frank.”
“No... I mean about everything else,” Frank said. “What we talked about.”
Oliver lowered his eyes. “What’s gonna happen to me, Frank?”
Frank released a shallow breath. He wished his mom was home, but he and Oliver had arrived to an empty house, and he had no idea when she’d get back, let alone what he’d say to her when she did. He already knew that it wasn’t going to be easy. But what he did know, was that it was right. He couldn’t handle things on his own anymore, and obviously, the Martins couldn’t, either. Whatever they were doing seemed to be destroying Oliver, and Frank missed his smile.
“I don’t know,” Frank admitted. “But look, I know my mom will help. You have to trust her, Oliver. I promise, she’d never do anything to hurt you, and she’s really good about this stuff... I know your parents won’t be locking you in that basement anymore.”
“Will she help David, too?” Oliver asked.
Frank tried not to frown. “I don’t know what’s going to happen with that... but no matter what, you’ll have me, okay? I promise.”
Oliver nodded, if a little reluctantly, and as he leaned into Frank’s shoulder, Frank placed a consoling arm around him. “My mom should be back soon,” he said quietly, and even as he finished saying it, he heard a door open and close, followed by his sister’s cheerful voice as she entered the house. “See,” he said. “There they are. Are you ready, Oliver?”
As soon as Frank asked the question and looked at Oliver, he knew he’d call the whole thing off if Oliver asked him to. After all, he was afraid of what was going to happen next, too. But, when Oliver gave him a nod, Frank felt relieved as they stood together and he led the way out of his room, following the sound of Rudy’s voice to the living room.
“I want to watch a funny one,” she was saying.
“I vote for horror, lots of blood and guts...” The second, joking voice gave Frank pause in the hallway. Unfortunately, it seemed that his dad was still there. But he moved forward, anyway, deciding to brave it.
Sam and Rudy looked up as Frank entered the living room with Oliver behind him, Rudy seeming pleased, and Sam looking nervous as he spotted Frank first. Frank decided to avoid his father’s eyes completely and turn his attention to Rudy.
“Where’s mom at?” he asked.
Rudy shrugged. “Don’t know. Hi, Oliver.”
Oliver gave her a small wave.
“She said something about running out for groceries,” Sam said, answering Frank’s question. “She should be back soon... Do you guys wanna watch a movie with us?”
“Not really,” Frank replied. He turned to Oliver. “Come on, we can wait for her outside.”
“Is everything okay?” Sam asked as he watched his son and his friend head towards the door.
“Just great,” Frank said tersely.
Sam frowned. There was a time when Frank wouldn’t have dared to talk to him in that tone, and he could feel some of that old parental frustration rising to the surface. “Frank, hold on a second, okay? I just want to talk to you real quick.”
“No thanks,” was the crisp response.
“Rudy, why don’t you go make some popcorn,” Sam said as he began to follow Frank towards the door. Rudy, knowing a warning tone when she heard one, nodded and headed for the kitchen. “Frank, will you just stop?” Sam demanded as soon as she was gone, beating Frank and Oliver to the door. “Do we have to do this?”
“I don’t know,” Frank retorted, crossing his arms. “Do we? Get out of my way.”
“No,” Sam said sternly. “Not until we talk.”
“Look, this is a really bad time,” Frank said, glancing back at Oliver, who was looking more nervous by the second.
“I’m sure your friend will understand if we take a few minutes,” Sam said sternly.
“Just get out of our way,” Frank demanded.
“Fine,” Sam replied. “Have it your way.” He stepped aside, but then took Frank completely off guard when he blocked him in and opened the door only enough for Oliver to get out. “I’m sorry,” he said to Oliver, you’re going to have to come back some other time.”
“What?” Frank demanded. “No, Oliver!”
“Frank will call you when he can,” Sam continued, putting an arm up to block Frank when he tried to get closer to Oliver, who looked like he was about to cry as he slowly began to move out the door, looking at Frank as if he didn’t know what else to do.
“Oliver, don’t!” Frank stated. “Dad, stop it! You don’t know what you’re doing!”
“Go,” Sam said to Oliver, raising his voice to match Frank’s. The way Frank saw it, that was a mistake, since it was just enough to spook Oliver right out the front door.
“Oliver!” he shouted, but Sam was already shutting the front door. Without giving it a second thought, Frank was shoving the larger man right into it. “Idiot!” he snapped.
“Hey!” Sam shouted, reaching for him. But, Frank was already out of reach and running through the house, moving towards the back door. Before Sam caught up to him he was outside, and halfway around the house, watching Oliver run down the shoreline to where they’d left the boat.
“Oliver, come back!” Frank shouted, but it was as if Oliver didn’t hear him.
“Frank!” Sam shouted. “You might not like it, but I’m still your father, and don’t think for a second I can’t ground you!”
Frank whirled around, temper flaring. “Go ahead!” he shouted. “Like I care about anything you do or say, anyway! God, I hate you! Why can’t you just leave me alone? If you cared about me at all you’d figure out that I don’t want you!... And for the record, you’re not my dad!”
Frank spun around, more angry words still on his lips, and he ran. Oliver had a good amount of distance between them now, but he was determined to catch up. He didn’t want Oliver getting back across the lake--to his parents.
Frank called out Oliver’s name again, but as he moved around the lake heading towards the bridge he’d lost all sight of him, until he saw the small motorboat moving over the water--with Oliver in it.
Cursing, Frank all but stomped his foot as he watched Oliver become smaller in the distance, and wondered how long it would take to get to him now. But, before he could come up with a solution to this new problem, something ahead caught his eye... someone.
Jeremy Jay Flaskis had definitely picked a bad time to go out spying--especially on Frank. Frank moved directly towards him purposefully. He was in a fighting mood, and it seemed that he’d just chosen his target.
Brian Martin stood near the Seaberg house, contemplating his next move as he watched Frank flee his father. It seemed to be a recurring theme: sons running away from their fathers. Just before he saw the Seabergs running out of their house like a couple of crazies, he’d seen his own son come out the front door, right before Oliver had taken one look at him and took off running. He’d pay for that later.
Brian ran his hand through his thinning hair to straighten it as he approached Frank Seaberg’s father, and smiled pleasantly as the man turned and spotted him there. “Having trouble with your boy there?” Brian asked. “I know exactly where you stand. I’ve been there myself.”
Sam frowned at the stranger, unaware of who he was. “Just a small argument. He’ll be back soon... Can I help you, Mister...”
“Martin,” Brian replied, extending his hand to shake Sam’s. “Brian Martin. I’m Oliver’s dad. Came over to give him a ride home, but it looks like I just missed him.”
“Oh, hi,” Sam said, smiling more easily now. “Yeah, I’m sorry about that. I didn’t realize you were on your way to pick him up.”
“Don’t worry about it. He’ll find his way home. So, Frank mentioned that you were visiting from out of town.”
“I’m surprised Frank mentioned me at all,” Sam said, nervously wondering what kind of impression this man had of him. “I mean, listen, whatever he said, he probably has a point or two, but...”
Brian laughed, placing a friendly hand on Sam’s shoulder. “Your boy’ll come around sooner or later. They always do. You know, what always works for me is a nice father-son outing. Something that really bonds ya.”
“You know, I was just thinking about that today,” Sam replied. “I mean, doing something like that.”
“If you’re interested, I know just the thing,” Brian offered.
Sam regarded the man curiously. “What’s that, Mr. Martin? To be honest... I’m willing to try just about anything at this point.”
“Well, if you’re looking to spend some real one-on-one time with him, I’d say a nice trip out on the lake is just for you, Mr. Seaberg. Ever driven a boat before?”
Bad idea. Bad idea. Really bad idea. Jay, convinced that Frank was going to hit him first and ask questions later, threw up his hands as the angry-looking blond approached. “Hold on!” he insisted.
“I told you...” Frank started as he advanced and Jay continued to step back.
“Look, no camera!” Jay said quickly. “I just came to talk to you, swear to god!”
Frank paused, his expression demanding an explanation while his offensive posture kept Jay on guard.
“I want to show you something,” Jay explained. “Just give me a little bit of time, hear me out, and if you don’t like what I’ve gotta say... then I swear you won’t see me around no more.”
Frank raised a curious eyebrow at that, but then turned his attention back to the lake, where Oliver was heading home. “I don’t have time for that right now.”
“Frank, please,” Jay said. “You wanna know why I’ve been following the Martins, don’t you?”
Frank looked back towards Jay, frowning. It seemed as if he’d been looking for answers since he’d first encountered Oliver Martin by the old shed in the woods, but so far, all of his questions only led to more questions. He’d given up. He needed help. The best thing he could do, would be to figure out how to get Oliver away from his mom again, and then wait for his own mother to come home. Forget about everything else. Just get Oliver some real help.
“I told you they’re a bad bunch,” Jay continued. “I’ll show you why I think that.”
“Does it have to do with your dog?” Frank asked.
Jay cocked his head. “No. Why?”
Frank sighed. “Never mind. Show me... just make it fast.”
He could go with Jay for a few minutes, Frank decided. Any answers were better than no answers at all. His mom wasn’t home yet, anyway... But when he thought about Oliver...
“I’m serious,” Frank said. “We’ve gotta hurry.”
“Fine, it’s this way,” Jay said, and Frank frowned when he realized Jay was going back towards his house.
“Wait... we can’t go that way. I can’t really let my dad see me right now.”
Jay looked curious, but only shrugged as he turned and headed through the woods instead. “The Martins are the ones who told you no one missed Odetta Grover, aren’t they?” Jay said as Frank followed him at a rushed pace.
“This is about her?” Frank asked, annoyed. He wasn’t very interested in learning more about a deceased woman at the moment.
“She wasn’t as bad as people said,” Jay replied quietly. “You wanna know how I met her?”
“If I say no, are you going to tell me, anyway?”
Jay glanced over his shoulder. “I killed one of her cats,” he said flatly. “When I was first learning to drive, I wasn’t paying attention, didn’t brake fast enough, and hit it... I would have just forgotten about it, you know? Figured that no one needed to know--it’s not like most of those animals weren’t really strays, anyway... But the thing is, my mom was with me. She’s all about doing the right thing, so she made me tell Odetta what happened... She freaked me out as much as she did everyone else, you know? But I went anyway... figured she’d scream at me... act a little crazy. Nothing I couldn’t handle. But, when I told her what happened to her cat, she thanked me for being honest and asked me if I’d come over again. I didn’t think I was going to do that, either, but I did... I started helping her with things around her house, and I talked to her. She was the best listener... she even helped me with a few things for school.”
“And now you don’t like the Martins because she didn’t?”
“There was more to it than that, Frank. They tormented her. Those cats, they were like family to her... It might not be something you or I can understand, but they were all she had. The Martins were always hunting--especially the old man. Mr. Gun-happy prick that he is...she was always afraid they were shooting at her cats. They started disappearing, so every time she saw a Martin, she kinda freaked. Finally, she confronted Brian, told him to stay off her land, or she’d let everyone know he wasn’t the stand-up citizen he pretends to be.”
“What does that mean?” Frank asked.
“He’s been cheating on his wife,” Jay explained. “Odetta said she’d tell Mary about it if he didn’t keep off her property and away from her cats... But the thing is, it wasn’t much of a threat, ‘cause everyone already sorta knew about it. In town, people always talk, and they figured Mary already knew, too. But, Brian figured that he was clever enough to keep it hidden. Had no idea that everyone was already talking... I think he took her threat seriously, because things just got worse. The Martins were always sneaking around her property, throwing shit at her windows...”
“Like the rocks she threw at Oliver?” Frank remarked.
“No--actual shit,” Jay said. “As in feces... They splattered her door with blood a few times, claimed it was from a kitten... it just escalated. I tried to get Odetta to get some help from the law, even brought my parents into it... But she didn’t like dealing with cops, even the fake ones around here, and my parents figured that she was just getting senile, since no one actually saw the Martins doing any of this, except for Odetta...but I believed her. She was terrified of them, and then that night of the storm... she called me up, screaming about something. I couldn’t understand her, but I swear I heard a gun go off, Frank. I got my dad and the two of us headed over, but by the time we got to the house... her boat was already overturned in the lake. It didn’t make any sense. She never went out in that boat.”
“And you think the Martins had something to do with it?”
Jay paused to look at Frank. “She didn’t get in that boat on her own.”
“How do you know?”
“Because she was more like those cats than anyone knew--she was terrified of the water, Frank. Couldn’t swim. She didn’t get in that boat--not in that storm.”
Frank frowned. “Then why not tell the police? If you thought it was the Martins...”
“We did tell,” Jay insisted. “The problem is, no one would listen. Everyone wanted to believe that Odetta Grover was just some crazy old witch. Lots of people thought she was dangerous because she was different, and figured she was better off gone... but I don’t buy any of it. I don’t know what happened that night, but I know the Martins were there. I saw Brian when they fished her out of the lake--he looked proud. Like, he was really getting away with something special.”
“And you follow Oliver because you think he had something to do with it, too?” Frank demanded, knowing deep down that Oliver wouldn’t have been capable of inflicting harm on anyone else... but then, he didn’t want to think about David.
“Someone knows something, Frank. I’m just waiting for one of them to mess up.”
Jay turned ahead, moving towards a drop off in the terrain, and Frank frowned as he stared at it for a moment. He knew where they were.
“What are we doing here?” he asked Jay.
“Because what I want to show you is right down here,” Jay said as he turned and began to climb down the steep terrain.
Stepping closer, Frank could see water, and felt a strong sense of deja vu as a fluffy white Persian looked up at him from below, swinging its tail before it disappeared in the brush upon Jay’s approach.
“Are you coming?” Jay asked as he reached the ground and looked up.
Frank felt a knot developing in his stomach as he remembered Rudy standing in the very spot he was now, and Oliver pulling her back strongly insisting that they never go down there. It had to be more than a coincidence that this is where Jay was leading him now.
“You afraid of heights or something?” Jay asked when he saw Frank hesitate.
“No,” Frank said shortly as he took a deep breath and moved to climb down the drop, where Jay was waiting for him at the bottom.
They were right at the edge of the water in a narrow cove, shaded by the trees. Jay headed down a path and Frank followed him about ten feet until they stopped, both staring at what was in front of them. For Jay, it seemed to be a place that deserved a certain amount of respect as he removed his hat. For Frank, it was realization as his hands shook at his sides and he realized exactly why Oliver hadn’t wanted to come down here.
Stuck in the mud, halfway submerged in the dark water, the small wooden boat was in ruins, but still where it had been when they towed Odetta Grover’s body out of the water. Frank passed Jay, moving closer as he tried to come up with every explanation he could when it came to why Oliver was afraid of this place. Maybe he thought it was haunted. Maybe he’d heard stories. He did not kill Odetta Grover. He couldn’t have. Frank refused to believe it. But, as he moved closer, taking in the details of the boat, the chipped green paint on the old wood was unmistakable, and he felt his breath catch. “Oh, God.”
“I keep coming here, trying to figure out what happened,” Jay said quietly. “This boat... it’s not in much worse shape than it was in when she died in it... she wouldn’t have gotten in on her own. She wouldn’t have gone out there.”
“I believe you.”
Jay’s eyes snapped to Frank, looking bewildered. “You do?”
“I mean... there is the question of how she paddled herself out there, since the oars for this boat are in my shed... but that doesn’t mean the Martins killed her,” Frank said quickly. “She could have gone out there without them.”
Jay stared at Frank for a long moment, digesting what he was hearing. “The oars? Show me!" he demanded.
“No. Wait... you can’t just...”
“Look, Frank, I know they had something to do with it! Just show me!”
“You can’t just accuse someone without proof!” Frank shouted. “I don’t believe it, okay! Oliver wouldn’t... he just wouldn’t!”
“I never said it had to be Oliver, but maybe...”
“You think Brian did it?” Frank asked, finding that to be an easier theory to swallow if there was foul play involved.
“Maybe,” Jay said. “He probably had a hell of a lot to do with it, but the boys had to be involved, too. I mean... shit, David comes down here all the time. It’s like he’s obsessed with this place.”
Frank’s head snapped up. “What did you say?”
“I’ve followed David here before,” Jay said. “At least once a week, but he probably comes more than that. He just stares at it... like, he’s waiting for something.”
“No,” Frank said, taking a step towards Jay. “You know about David?”
“What about him?” Jay asked, frowning.
“Look, Frank, I get they’re your friends, but if they had anything to do with this...”
“Will you just shut up for a second?” Frank snapped, his head spinning. “I need to ask you something... just answer the question, alright?”
“Oliver and David... have you ever seen the two of them together?”
“Well, it’s kinda hard not to notice twins, especially around here. Kinda head-turners, you know?”
Frank gripped his head, thoughts spiraling as he tried to comprehend what Jay was telling him. “Are you sure?” he asked hoarsely.
“Of course I’m sure,” Jay responded irritably. “Hey... are you alright?”
“When?” Frank demanded. “When did you see the two of them together?”
“Umm... oh, about a month ago I got shots of both of them sneaking around Odetta’s place, just before you moved in.... Frank?”
Frank had already turned to head back, and Jay rushed to catch up.
“We have to go,” Frank stated.
“Okay, well, look, I need those oars, maybe if I show them to...”
“No,” Frank cut him off. “I have to get to Oliver. Now.”
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