This story is posted for the exclusive enjoyment of readers of the Nifty Archive. While you are free to make a personal copy, no copy of this manuscript may be published, copied, posted to another web site, or otherwise disseminated without express permission from the author.

The contents of this story are fictional. Any resemblance of characters to living or lived persons is strictly coincidental. Certain characters engage in sexual acts which may or may not be legal in the state or country in which a reader may reside. Any reader with objections to graphic descriptions of sexual encounters between males who may not have reached the legal age of consent, or whose local, regional, state or national jurisprudence prohibits such descriptions, should not read further.

Chapter XIX

Wednesday, July 7, 1993

"Deep shit," said Tremane. "Those two guys were good. The best. Somebody out there is using techniques that no more than one guy in a million knows."

Gutierrez gave a look that said Tremane was over-reacting, but only in language, not in substance.

"A professional killer?" Brad asked.

"More likely someone who has a motive as well as the requisite skills," said Gutierrez. "We're looking for someone in their twenties with military or police sniper training."

"Why the age group?" I asked.

"The guy has exceptional agility, strength and wind," said Tremane. "He climbed a tree over the surveillance van, clambered through the branches in the dark, then lowered himself with a pair of ropes down from a branch over the van until he could see through the side window, and plugged our men, probably while hanging upside down."

"He cuts his rope, the nylon boating kind you can get anywhere, runs to your window, Tim, thought you were still in bed instead of in the bathroom, and fires away with an automatic, 16 millimeter rifle, equipped with a silencer, at least a full magazine," said Gutierrez. "Four shots through the heart of the body in your bed, four through the head, the rest in between. Except it wasn't a body, it was your pillows and quilt bunched up that looked like one."

Tremane interjected: "All that stuff weighs at least fifty pounds. The guy has to be pretty strong to carry all that up a tree, winch himself down and hold himself still enough to hit my . . . men, then run across to your house, all in the space of less than five minutes."

He choked up a little when he talked of the "hit."

"Why five minutes?" asked Brad.

"That's the time between when we got the last live report from the unit and the first call by the alarm system, when Mrs. Holmes tripped the safety alarm," said Gutierrez.

"She tripped it as soon as she heard the glass, the sounds of the silenced rounds," added Tremane. "Four minutes and forty-four seconds after the clear call from the unit."

"Boo kicked in the door and hauled off with her own heavy duty weapon, and the guy split, taking it all with him, except the spent rounds, and ran about two miles before he got into a dark sedan on the other side of the lake and drove off. Before we got our team in place. No more than fourteen minutes after the alarm call," said Gutierrez, "Because we had the area cordoned off this side of the freeway, all the way to the river. The guy got out before we had it sealed. Not many people can run a twelve minute two miler carrying thirty or forty pounds of gear."

"But Boo didn't get to us right away," Brad said. "She must have taken at least a minute to get to us in Brad's bedroom, because that's how long it took for the guy to get there after I heard the gun go off in my room."

I was lost in the climbing part.

"Which means he had even less time to get to his getaway car," said Tremane.

"Why did he cut the ropes?" I asked. Out loud apparently.

"Huh?" said Brad. Shit, I was doing it again.

"Why not just leave them there?"

"He used two ropes on the same branch, to keep him from twisting, I guess," said Gutierrez, "As for cutting the ropes . . ." he scrunched up his face in thought.

"I mean, if he was good, why not some kind of quick-release?" I continued. I had no idea where I was going.

"No idea," said Gutierrez. "We'll find the answer, though. First things first. We have to get you out of here."

"Where are we going from here?" asked Brad.

"Anywhere you want," said Gutierrez. "We'll have you under full protection. Hotel, safe house."

"Home," I said.

"You sure?" asked Gutierrez. "It's not a fortress."

"It's the last place I'd look for me after what he did," I said. "Brad and I discussed it." I looked at Brad for support.

"We feel better if Boo's around," he said. "We should tell Throckmorton, nobody else."

"Your call," said Tremane, and pulled another of those pocket radios out of his pocket. He walked over to the window, whether to get better connection or to have more privacy, I couldn't tell you. At any rate, I couldn't make out what he said into it. Of course, we were talking with Gutierrez at the same time, so I wasn't really concentrating.

Tell me exactly what happened," said Gutierrez, pulling out his little book.

"Well. I got up to go to the bathroom," I said. "I wasn't sleeping too good, so the duvet and the pillows were all bunched up around me, and I was hot." I got into the web of the story.

"I was going to the toilet when I heard a funny noise, a kinda popping -- what I thought were rubber bands or something on the window in my bedroom, and it scared me a little, so I went to wake Brad up." My speech was getting clearer and my lips worked better. I almost sounded like I was talking right. Except the "B" sounded like a hard "R" and the "M" was fuzzy.

"You didn't go back to your room?"

"No -- Brad's door is closer to the bathroom than mine."

"Good move." He was writing in his book. "What next?"

"Brad's door locked behind me. I was over by Brad's bed. Then I saw this movement at the window, and I just grabbed Brad's arm and pulled him over the edge of the bed onto the floor, and that's when the shots happened."

I was proud of that. I didn't tell a single lie, but I told everything so it sounded like things happened differently -- or al least in a different order. Brad looked at me . . . I could tell he was impressed.

"Were you standing up?"

"I . . . I . . . no. I sat down on the floor and put my feet against the bed to pull him over on top of me," I said. "He just rolled right over, and sort of landed in my lap, except he kept going."

"Saved his life, sure," Boo said. "That bed ain't going to see nobody sleepin' in it ever again - the mattress is all tore up."

I think I blushed, then. Whether from fibs or embarrassment, I couldn't tell you. My face felt all hot. Then, like a dolt, I thought about what she said, that Brad might have been killed, and I felt myself choking all up. William saved me.

"Lord, what some people won't do to get a new mattress!"

Brad started to deny it before he realized it was a joke, and we all had a giggle. Even Gutierrez cracked a smile. His head was down as he wrote, but I saw, 'cause I was lower down.

Tremane was back. "House is a go," he said in that shorthand that cops use all the time.

"Good," Gutierrez said, still writing.

"Did you see any details?" said Tremane. "I mean of the guy outside the window? Height. Build?"

"Well," I started, then stopped. What had I seen? "I thought of an Avenger, I remember, except I couldn't see any eyes or mouth."

"What's an Avenger look like?"

"It's a guy wearing a skintight bulletproof mask over his whole head," I said. "Kind of like 'Spiderman,' but no ears."

"Ski mask?" said Gutierrez.

"No, it didn't reflect any light. It was just sort of blacker against the background."

Tremane and Gutierrez looked at each other, I guessed to confirm that I'd lost it.

"Camo," said Tremane.

"No sign from wit," said Gutierrez. "Got specs?"


"Need confirm."

"On it," said Tremane, who walked out of the room without another word.

I had no idea on earth what they'd just discussed -- it could have been about anything.

"Anything else you noticed?" Gutierrez pushed.

"Not really, I said. " It was just a shadow."

"How high on the window was the top of his head?"

I tried to remember. "When I got my last look, before I pulled on Brad, his head was . . . split by the sash. Yeah. The sash goes across where his nose should have been."

"How far was he from the window? Close? Far?"

"Close," I said. "His gun hit the house when he pulled it up. I heard it."

"Good. Anything else?"

I thought and thought, but there was nothing. "Nope," I said. "Wish there was."

Brad shook his head at about the same time. "Sorry we're not being much help," he said.

"Detective?" I said, not quite sure how to say what I wanted to say.


"I'm . . . I'm sorry about your men," I managed to get out.

"And I'm sorry for what I said," said Brad. "I'm . . . I think I'm a little nervous."

"Of course you are!" said Gutierrez. "You're both doing damned well, given all this. Don't let Tremane get to you. One of the guys that bought it was his classmate at the Academy. He's a little tore up about it."

"Yeah. We noticed," Brad said.

"Look, I've got to go play cop for a while," said Gutierrez. "There's a uniformed officer outside the door, and a plainclothesman in the waiting area in sight of your room. You'll get all the protection possible here."

"What about when I go . . . when we go home?" I asked.

"Same deal," said Gutierrez. "But this time we have full court press."

"What's that mean?" Brad asked.

"Four men out, one man in," Gutierrez said. "Until tomorrow, then you both skip town until we get our man."

"Where do . . . ?" I didn't need to finish, of course. We would go to Reston. Reston was the safest place for us to be, as long as Boo was there with us. The walls were inches thick; the clearing was at least a hundred feet on all sides. We could even hook up motion-sensitive lights to the generator, if we could put up with the noise.

"I'm gone," said Gutierrez, opening the door. To the cop as he walked out, he said "no visitors except the black woman, the brother, and the two . . ." he looked back at me and changed his mind about what he was going to say . . . "gentlemen who were in here before." He started to walk away, then changed his mind on something, and turned back. "And the lawyer. Got it?"

"Yes, sir!" said the cop. You could almost hear the salute in his voice.

"I.D. everybody with a uniform," Gutierrez added as the door slowly closed by itself. I didn't hear the rest, if there was any. Brad and I were alone again, at last.

"You all right?" asked Brad. He was at my side sitting on the stool.

"Yeah," I said. "A little scared, though."

He leaned in and kissed my right temple, and I felt better, a little. "We'll get through this, Loon. Promise."

"He's so handsome it makes my head swim, even with the bandage and the red-rimmed eyes." I thought to myself.

He held onto my hand, and I think I dozed. When I woke, the clock said six, and Brad still held my hand, but he was asleep, his head on the bed by my elbow, his face towards me. The bed was flat again, and somebody had put a blanket over his shoulders. His face was slack, the lips a little open at the corner on the bottom. I just looked at him, and got all teary thinking about how much I loved him, how I could have lost him. I didn't cry, but I couldn't see for a while.

My shoulder hurt a little. No, it hurt. Dull, sort of, but deep and constant. It was starting to get sharper, when the door opened slowly and a nurse in a red and white striped frock, or whatever those things are, came into the room. The same cop was there.

She came over to the bed with two little cups in her hand, and whispered that I had to take a few pills, then rolled some out of the cup into my open mouth when I nodded and opened. I lifted my head a little to get some water out of the cup she held towards my lips, and the twinge in my arm was enough to make me wince. I swallowed quickly, getting all the pills in a gulp, and opened my mouth to show her that it was empty before letting my head bounce back on the pillow.

Brad woke up, and looked at me with out moving his head. I don't think he saw the Nurses Aide. "I love you," he said automatically. I looked up at the NA, who just smiled and left.

Brad caught the movement out of the corner of his eye, and snapped his head up to look at her, as she went out the door. "Did I say that?"

"Yeah, and I love you for it," I said, squeezing his hand.

"I've ruined our reputation," he said with a smirk.

"Yeah," I said, squeezing him again. "But you made my day." I got a kiss for that, and felt better. We talked a little about the attack, but nothing worth remembering, I think. Now, I look back on it, and it all seems like a TV show we saw, not really real, except for the bandages and the hurt.

The breakfast tray came at around seven thirteen, at least an hour after the hunger pangs began. I ate a piece of limp toast, passed on the cooled-off egg, and Brad opened the Raisin Bran for me, but I hate warm milk on cereal, so I didn't eat but two spoons of it. Brad fed me, and it felt nice to be babied by him, somehow. I liked the soft cheese and ham on the crackers, and ate all of that, and the yogurt, too. Brad ate the rest, including the egg. It wasn't hard, so when he peeled it, it was all soft. When he bit into it, the gooey yolk dripped out the side, onto his chin. I tried not to laugh, but he caught my drift, and gave me a glare that was about as convincing as Brad Pitt is in any role since "Thelma and Louise."

Dr. Ben came at seven-thirty as promised, with a different nurse -- a man. Jeremy and William had come in by that time, and Boo was in the hall, reading. The nurse read stuff off the machine, took a drip tube out of my arm, and took a bunch of wires off my chest and lower leg. I hadn't even realized they were there.

Then the fun part, when they changed the dressing. It wasn't all that bad, really. I mean there were just two holes, one in front, and the other in back. But bruised! Wow! I looked like a Salvador Dali nightmare painting in front, with this really small, perfectly clean slit with two tiny stitches in front and center. I thought it went through the top, the fleshy part, but it went underneath the top bone, maybe four inches down from the top of my shoulder. It didn't look at all that bad, except the bruise. I'm glad I didn't see the other side until after it started to heal. Bullets that hit a bone tumble or something, and where it went out, it left a right mess. I still have this awful scar back there, all these years later, but not as bad. At least I don't have to look at it.

After a little more prodding and poking, and more questions about headaches and stuff, Dr. Ben gave me a couple of prescriptions, my walking papers, as he called them, and a handshake, and was gone. He was nice. I never saw him again to say thank you. Maybe he'll read this and know I appreciated what he did.

Brad and Jeremy helped me put on a loose shirt and shorts and stuff. Jeremy was cool -- he turned his head when Brad pulled the sheet off me to put my boxers on, like he was looking out the window. I wasn't hard or anything, and Brad didn't do but dress me (rats!), but I appreciated it. I mean, his respect for my space.  William turned his back completely, but he snuck a peek, I think. No big deal, I guess.

Jeremy went out and spoke to the cop, and they made some sort of arrangement for him to drive me home, and the cops to follow.

By eight thirty, we were on the way at last. I had to go out in a wheelchair - hospital policy or something like that. The cop that had been at the door walked in front of me as we went out, and a guy in a big loose print shirt and shorts got up in the waiting room and walked by my side. He didn't look like a cop. Burly, like a football player. The young one had a nice butt. I caught Brad looking at it, and winked at him, but without a smile. He knew what I meant, and stopped looking.

Jeremy had his car right in front of the door for us, and the five of us fit in with room to spare, with Boo in shotgun, Brad in the middle in back. There were two cops in a car behind us, all the way home. Not the ones from the hospital, they went somewhere else. It felt kinda funny to have cops hovering all the time.

Throckmorton met us at the back door when we piled out of the Bentley. (Gutierrez told Jeremy that we should use the back door as much as possible, because it was protected more easily.) There was a white van in front, like the one that Saw was in, as well as a contractor's truck, with the logo for a window replacement contractor on the side. The car with the cops in it pulled up next to Jeremy's, on the side away from the house. It was a long-bed Caravan, and hid the car -- and us -- from the back garden.

It hurt when I got out of the car, but not a lot. I didn't let on, but Brad must have seen it, because he put his hand under my elbow to let me lean a little, as I stood up. He got there awful fast, considering that he had to crawl out after William, then come all the way around the back, before I even started to get out. Throckmorton had only just opened my door.

"They're just finishing on the forensics," said Throckmorton. "Your new windows should be in place by this afternoon."

Throckmorton never ceased to amaze me with his ability to organize things in minutes that would have taken me days.

The day sort of meandered by. Boo fixed us a salad for lunch, and Julie Throan came by with the "Minutes of the Emergency Meeting of The Board of Directors," "Minutes of The Extraordinary Meeting of Shareholders," "Minutes of Board of Directors' Meeting of July 6, 1993," and the "Resolution of the Board of Directors" for me and Brad to sign. She explained what was in each. The Board had to confirm that we were the "incumbent shareholders" following the wishes of the previous share owners, allowing us to vote their shares until such time as the shares got transferred to our name in the register of share owners. Then we had to convene a shareholders' meeting to elect ourselves directors, then another Board meeting to pass a resolution. It seemed far too complicated to me, but that's the way Thurston said it had to be, in order to be satisfactory to the bank, so we went along with it. (It all had to get unwound later in any event, when the Trust was established to protect me and Brad as long as we were minors -- we weren't allowed to vote our shares until we were both over eighteen, if you can believe it! Thurston had to do everything. Damned nuisance for more then four years.)

Julie was all apologetic, but awkward, like everybody seemed to be when they were with us right after Mom and Dad's death. As soon as we'd signed, she fled.

I took one of the pain pills at one thirty, when the throb got just a little more than I could tolerate. I don't like taking medicines unless I really have to. The painkiller kept me in a sort of liquidy haze, but that was all right, at least for a little while. Brad hovered until I told him to give me room to breathe. I enjoyed it with part of me, but didn't want to be treated like I was on death's door, either.

The officer on duty inside the house with us wasn't the one who'd been at the hospital. It was an older guy, bored and boring. I didn't even write down his name in my journal. He was replaced by Officer Munoz at a little after two p.m. He seemed subdued, but no less intimidating than before. I think it was that darned smirk on his face all the time.

Just after Munoz came on duty, Boo asked him if he'd stop for dinner with us. She was making barbecue, and she wanted to know how much meat to fetch from the market. Brad and I were in the family room, playing at cribbage, and Munoz was in the kitchen nook, looking out over the garden. Jeremy was kibitzing and doing the shuffling, dealing and some playing for me and Brad was trouncing my butt, with glee as usual. Jeremy didn't have a clue about the game, but told some great jokes that made me laugh. Some things never change -- I don't remember a one of them.

"I'd be honored, Ma'am," came this deep, charming voice, with a Southern drawl to it (I later found out it was called a Texas twang, but I couldn't tell). I realized that it was the first time I'd heard him speak more than one word since meeting him . . . god, was it only three days ago?

"San Antone?" Boo asked.

"Fort Worth," answered Munoz.

"Ah. You'll like my barbecue, then," said Boo. "Beef and pork, no chicken or lamb."

"Yes'm," he said. "You know Texas?"

"Got family there," Boo said. "Mostly Galveston."

"Never got there," said Munoz. "We left when I was fifteen."

"Folks looking to get rich in California?"

"No ma'am," he said, a little more softly. "But somethin' like that."

Boo asked no more questions. I still thought Munoz was a little intimidating. But he was as polite as could be to Boo. I wondered if I'd been too quick to judge him.

Boo sent Jeremy down to the good market for the meat, telling him to "just pass right by that Safeway -- my barbecue ain't never gonna get made with select meat." She spat out the word "select" like it was a cuss word. Jeremy got a list of some other things she wanted, as well.

"Can I go, Boo?" Brad said. "Just to get out of the house?" Bull - he wanted to ride in the Bentley.

Munoz looked at him like he was stark raving loony. "Brad," he said in a downright friendly voice, "I know you're going stir crazy, but remember what happened last night."  He pointed at my arm. "There's no way I'd let you put yourself at risk like that."

"It isn't fair we have to suffer because some damned nut case is trying to . . ." I listened to my own voice, and it sounded like a whiney, spoiled brat, so I stopped. "Okay. Wrong," I said, then shut up.

I got a grin out of Brad. Munoz gave me a wink, and Brad saw it. The grin shrank up into a grimace; Brad said something about having to do some reading, and stopped playing. I knew what was going through his head like I could still "read" him, but I couldn't say anything in front of everybody, so I let it pass. For then.

William volunteered a cribbage challenge while Jeremy was gone. I had to let him shuffle and deal all the time, since my left hand was completely useless, except to hold my cards. He was terrible, and I beat him two games running, even helping him figure out what to keep in his crib once in a while, and correcting his counts. Then he had some writing to do on his PC, so we stopped. Brad busied himself with some stuff on his paint business, and talked to Bud a few times.

Munoz was somewhere close by all the time, but if you didn't look for him, he wasn't there. The man could move more quietly than a cat.

I had nothing to do, so I watched the contractors, then read for a while in Dad's office, listening to the fountain in the little courtyard in the center of the house. Only Mom and Dad's bedroom, their dressing room and toilet and Dad's office opened onto the brick-floored "interior garden." It was only maybe fifteen by twenty, open to the sky, yet  really opened up the rooms, which otherwise would have had no light. I got bored real quick, and went out to the TV room to watch a little on the Discovery Channel the Mating Habits of Squid, or something. (Actually, that's a line from this fantastic cartoon strip, Sherman's Lagoon, I saw once.)

When Jeremy got back from market, I watched Munoz. He heard the car long before I did, and his body went into a sort of "sprung" mode, ready for whatever. Once the Bentley drove into the back, he relaxed, and yet stayed alert, watching the back garden as Jeremy unloaded the bags. The Caravan was gone.

An hour later, the smell of Boo's barbecue was already wafting through the house. She stirred it every few minutes in the big pot on the stove. She threw in a bunch of bones she'd asked Jeremy to get from the butcher, just for flavor. I never knew you barbecued meat by boiling it in a pot before you roasted.

By four thirty, the contractors had the new windows installed, and a van came from some furniture place with new mattresses Throckmorton had ordered. They took away what was left of the old ones, which were in big plastic bags. The "Coats" tore them both into shreds, after taking all kinds of photos, and stuffed them into the bags the mattress guys brought; they were looking for bullets, I guess. The mattress guys looked like they'd seen it all before, paid no nevermind to the Coats at all.

The contractors hadn't got started until after lunch, because the Coats took a long time to measure, photograph, and pick things up off the ground of the flower bed in front of my window, and the one in front of Brad's window. I thought they'd take a cast of a footprint, or something like that, but they didn't need to, as I later learned.

At a little before five, we got a pleasant surprise. I mean, under the circumstances. The telephone rang for the hundredth time, and Boo answered as usual, but then she called out for Brad and me to take the call in the Office. I picked up right away, since I was in there reading again.

"Hello, Tim," said a deep, familiar voice. "It's Mark Chatman, from Radford."

"Hi, Mark," I said. "How are you and Don."

"That's not at all important," said Mark. "I just wanted to let you know that if there's anything at all we can do to be helpful, you just ask."

"Gosh, thanks Mark," I said vacantly. I had no idea at all how they could be helpful.

"If you want us to watch out over your cabin, or do any little things around it while you're . . . tied up, we'd be happy to be useful."

"We might do that," I said. "Do you know what's involved in getting a telephone line installed?"

"We'll find out for you," Mark said. "You planning on coming up soon?"

"We'll be up on Friday," I said, just as Brad came into the room. "There'll be me and Brad, plus my Uncle Jeremy and Uncle William, and Boo, our . . . housekeeper."

Brad raised his eyebrows as if to ask whom it was I was talking to. I put the mouthpiece to my chest and told him. His eyes opened wide.

"You keeping your chins up?" asked Mark, just as I switched to speakerphone.

"Hi, Mark," said Brad. "Yeah, we're hangin' in there."

"Well, we just want you to know that the whole town feels real bad about losing your Mom and Dad," said Don's voice. They must have a speakerphone too. "Bertha and Terry and Junior and Senior and Ed and Bill and Herb and Chan all said to give you their love, and that's just what I can remember from our run into town yesterday after work."

"You come on home as you can," said Mark.

"We will," said Brad, at the same time as me. "We will."

"Sure there's nothin' else we can do?" Don asked.

"You know anything about electric?" Brad asked. I didn't know what he was thinking about.

"Some," said Mark.

"Know anybody who could fix us up with a few of those proximity lights, hooked up to the generator?"

"You aren't on PG&E?" asked Don. They obviously were.

"Nope," Brad said. "Cost more'n fifteen thousand to hook up."

"Ouch!" said Don.

"See what we can do," said Mark. "See you Friday!"

They rang off, and I had this good-tingly feeling inside. Nice to know people care, you know? They called Radford home, and felt it was our home, as well.

"Uh, Brad?" I started out. "You know there's nothing Munoz has that I want."

"I just don't like the way he looks at you," Brad shot back. "You don't do much to discourage him."

"Brad, you're my man. Nobody else. Period. Paragrarh. New Book. Got it?"

I got a gentle hug and a sweet kiss or six, then we went back into the family room and played a little more cribbage, with William kibitzing. He helped me shuffle and deal again.

I had to take another pain pill around six, about an hour before dinner. It wasn't real bad, just that deep throb, so I only took half of one. I couldn't concentrate good with the full-strength stuff, anyway. My mind kept just moving around, not registering what I read or anything. I didn't like that. Better a little pain than that.

We sat to table at seven, all of us. Boo apparently said something to Brad, because he invited Munoz to ask the blessing. Munoz at first started to say no, but then he looked at Boo and went ahead. It was short and sweet, and direct to Him. I was surprised at that. I thought all Hispanics were Catholic, and therefore always prayed through an intermediary. No matter -- I got the impression that he felt really good about being asked to say the grace. The barbecue was by far the best anyone had ever tasted, and Boo was again all smiles. I'm not going to tell you all about it here. You'd just lose your appetite for anything else for the rest of the day. She apologized, like any good jewish mama, saying it would have been better if she could have cooked it on the stove last night and kept it in the cooling sauce in the fridge overnight before roasting. (It actually is better, but I had never tasted Boo's Barbecue before, and this was definitely the best I ever ate, by ten miles.

The table conversation was lively, ranging all over the place. I noticed Munoz watching the interplay between William and Jeremy, and realized that he was aware of the situation, but didn't reject. Brad was watching Munoz very closely, and I think he was a little pissed that Boo had me sitting next to him, not next to Brad. I remembered our discussion on our telephone the first time we saw Munoz, and knew what was up. Brad was having a jealous snit. There wasn't much I could do about that, except talk to him again later, make sure I got the message through: there was nothing in Munoz that even slightly attracted me away from Brad. I knew how he felt, though, and wished our telephone worked, so I could have him walk through my thoughts some more and know that all was well.

At eight thirty, we started talking about sleeping arrangements. Munoz said he didn't want me or Brad to sleep in our own rooms, because someone knew they were ours. Then he made a suggestion that floored me. He said we should sleep together in Mom and Dad's bed, because their bedroom had no window to the open outdoors, only to the central atrium, with the exit to the outside through the one-way iron gate that had a slip lock on it -- one you can only open from the inside.

"I know that's asking a lot, because it was your folk's room," he said. "But they'd want you to sleep there if they knew the situation, I promise you."

When he spoke from inside, his face took on a real kind, pleasant look, and I almost liked him. As soon as he stopped, though, his face went back to the curled lip smirk I found so . . . off-putting, is all I could think. I wondered what made him be that way, what private devils he had to face every morning, all day long, every night. I try to look underneath things too much, Brad said once. He knew me, so I guess he was right.

He -- Munoz -- was not going to sleep. He would be staying with us until six, when relief would arrive. Cops aren't nine-to-fivers, that's for sure. I wondered how they managed to have reasonable family lives, getting jerked around all the time. Two P.M. to six A.M. was one hell of a long duty time.

By nine, I was ready for bed. I could barely keep my eyes open, even with the fear of what was going to happen tomorrow at Church, then . . . at the . . . crematorium. God, that sounds so final!

I got up from the couch in front of the TV, and suddenly felt a little light-headed. Brad steadied me, and announced to all that we were going to bed. Boo came with us, just to make sure I was all right. She told me Dr. Ben had given her all the information on changing the dressing, so she would do it on a daily basis until the scab formed. She checked it, and changed the back half. It hurt a little when she pulled the gauze up, but not bad. She said I didn't have to change the front until morning, as it was dry.

Brad got this notion that Boo shouldn't think we were sleeping together voluntarily, that it was a forced thing. He said something about not feeling right about two guys sleeping in the same bed.

"And I was born yesterday," she laughed lightly at us.

"Huh?" I figured playing dumb was the best recourse for the moment. Brad blushed.

"I knows you sleeps in the same bed at night," she smiled. "It's okay, honey. You just make sure you don't get too frisky and wake up the neighborhood."

Brad was mortified. "We aren't doing anything . . . I mean it isn't like you think, we don't . . . "

"Tim wasn't in his bed all night long, and I'm sure you weren't playing chess all night."


"I seen the two of you sleeping there, all wrapped up in each other's arms.  I figured, 'They got a right.'"


"The first night I stayed with you, when you slept in Tim's bed," Boo said. "I looked in on you before I went to sleep, and you was sleeping in peace with each other." She looked at me like my Gran Weston did when I was a kid. "I figure if you hadn't a slept together in Brad's room last night, I'd a lost both of you."

Brad cleared his throat, I looked over at him, and his eyes were glistening a little,

"You're all alone, you two. I guess the Lord wants you to just take care of each other."

To this day, I have no idea whether or not that meant she thought we were . . . doing it together. I guess to her it just didn't matter. She was with us until she got arthritis so bad she couldn't walk too good, and it got so hard for her in New Jersey, we convinced her to come back to California and retire. She died two years ago. Liver cancer. Boo was a Methodist, and a good Christian soul.

I -- we -- went to the funeral, in East Sacramento, and cried like a new drip system had just been installed in each eye. I was the only white guy there, among maybe two hundred mourners, but I didn't feel out of place, even though I knew no one there. Thurston couldn't come, because his wife was in her last hours.

I was surprised that Gutierrez or Tremane didn't show, or the guy from the FBI that thought so much of her, Connors, I think his name was. I guess police work is so full of death, you can't go to all the funerals and keep your sanity. I wondered if her son knew she had died, if he cared one way or the other. Would he have cared more if he had known of her wealth?

I can not tell you how weird it is to sleep in your Mom and Dad's bed. I had to lay flat on my back, because of my arm, and when Brad scrunched up against me and kissed me, I almost had this feeling like we had to be careful, Mom and Dad might see us.

Brad made me forget all that.

"Comfortable?" he asked. His right hand was on my chest, not rubbing or pressing, but moving around a little. He was propped up on his left elbow and hand, giving me little kisses around the face, not stopping long enough to get too intense.

"Feels strange, in Mom and Dad's bed, Munoz in the house, Boo telling us she knows, everything."

"About Munoz," he started.

"Get over it," I said, pretty directly. "I like him a little more than before, but there is absolutely no way I'd do anything with somebody else."

"You don't want to . . . uh . . . experiment?"

"What on earth for?" I asked, truly mystified.

"Most gay guys are . . . like to . . . spread it around," he said.

"Since when are you the friggin' expert?" I spat out. "You telling me you want to play around with other . . . "

"NO!" he said, in the loudest whisper I've ever heard. You could probably hear it in the TV room, if the sound was down low. "I don't want to know if you . . ."

"Oh, you'll know all right," I said to him, not bothering to whisper. "You'll be fucking dead before I mess with somebody else, you hear? Fucking dead!"

So okay, I over-reacted. But you gotta set the record straight, right?

Besides, it got him all warm and fuzzy, and his kisses turned into one real knockout tonguer, and we got hot as hell. I mean, we hadn't had sex for two whole days, for chrissakes, what did you expect? My arm hurt a little, but I forgot about it as Brad warmed me up to searing. I just held onto his magnificent dick as he did all the work, moving his hand over my nipples, tweaking them gently, then a little harder. Our mouths were in their usual fixed position, our tongues taking turns exploring each other's mouth, the breath through our noses increasing in direct proportion to our passion.

His right leg went under mine, lifting it, and I guided his hard-as-steel dick under me as he scooted closer, his left leg under my left, my right leg over his hip. I let go of his dick, and got my arm under his shoulder as he squeezed into me, his left hand under my neck, but not touching my shoulder.

"You gonna be all right?" he asked breaking away as his hand found my eager dick, drooling with glee at the forthcoming banquet.

"Not if you don't come inside me and keep me company," I said with my usual dumb dialogue. "I'm gonna shoot all over the ceiling if you keep this up."

"Hurt?" he said, his dick drooling into the crack of my butt, getting me ready as if by instinct, knowing exactly where to position itself. I could feel him throbbing down there.

"Good," I said, then lifting my head up a little to trap his mouth to mine again. He talks too much, sometimes. He can talk all he wants if we're on our telephone, but I want his mouth on, in mine when we're making love together.

He finally got the message, and our temps went up another notch. He rolled my balls around gently, tickled under the sac, squeezed the base of my shaft, behind the balls, all the way down to where it disappears just in front of my hole. His little finger -- which isn't that little, all our fingers are almost the same length, but the little one isn't quite, and it isn't quite as thick as the others -- tickled right at my hole, making circles around the entrance. Like it was homing in on it. His thumb was on the side of my shaft, pressing in, and he had my balls in between two of the other fingers, moving them around at the same time.

His dick fought with his finger for access to me, and spit out some more love lube, apparently just on the tip of his finger, which hit the center of my hole and pressed in just a little. I had this quick thought that I hoped it was clean down there, but the tingle of having his finger move into me made me forget it real quick.

"God, can you turn me on!" I thought in between hot flashes going through my head. It was warm enough in the room that the covers slipped off without problem, and my dick was waving around like a construction crane with palsy, snapping with every beat of my heart.

Brad's finger went in a little farther, then massaged me inside, and the tip of my dick burbled out lube, dripping onto my belly. I wanted him in deeper, wanted his dick to fill my insides with his seed, wanted to inhale his breath, his soul, his beauty, his strength. His finger slipped out of me, and I felt an emptiness, my need for him getting out of control. I couldn't reach his dick, my hand was under his shoulders, the other tied to my chest, but I wanted to grab him and just ram him into me, give me his tower, so I told him.

"Fuck me, Brad! Fuck me now! God, come inside me! I want you so bad inside me!" I thought at him. I was going crazy, I couldn't stop yelling at him in my head. "Now, Brad! Now!"

"You sure?" he whispered, breaking away from my mouth after a second, but plugging my mouth again before I could say anything back at him out loud.

"You heard me!" I said. "Stop teasing me, Brad! Now, Brad! God, now!"

My insides were boiling out the tip of my dick, and there was a place deep inside me that had that itch only he could scratch, only his dick could reach, and I wanted it so much I was starting to get dizzy.

He said "mmmm-mmmm" in my mouth, the "unh-huh" of agreement when your tongues are fused, and his hand moved a little, his middle finger moving into me, not his dick, and I was a little happier, but not much. It could never reach the spot, even if it could do . . . "oh, god, that feels so good, oh yes, like that, yes, right there, a little harder, just, ah!! Yes!!  Ahhhh!"

He hummed his pleasure into my mouth as I had one of those dry orgasm that lets you know the real thing is going to be something truly spectacular, if only he will "get on with it, Brad, come into me, Brad, please, please, now, Brad!"

He just hummed into my mouth again, and his finger moved against my prostate, rolling around it, forcing more of my lube out the tip of my dick.

By this time I was past the border of lunacy, every nerve in me strumming like a banjo, like a piano dropped from ten feet. I couldn't think in words any more, just raw pictures and swirls of colour, and he took his finger out, letting me start to recover, but only long enough to press the head of his dick against my hole, his legs gripping my left leg in a vise, using it as a lever to gently but implacably thrust his dick towards that spot inside me, like a heat-seeking missile flying up the afterburner of its target.

He popped inside the ring, and there was a little stab of cramp, soon gone. I tried to move down on him, get more of him in me, but he pulled back a little, giving me only a tiny fraction of what I needed of him. His hand swiped at my tummy, scooping up some of my lube, and then moved down to his shaft, no doubt slicking it up more. I felt him throb inside me, and tried again to get more into me, but he kept pulling back. I was going back over the lunacy border, couldn't think words, just pictures of him inside me, of great gouts of his seed coming into me, of me erupting like Vesuvius.

He let me have a little more, and I felt the pressure of him against my prostate, felt the strength of his leg muscles pulling me down to him, and felt the spot inside me reach out to him, coax him into its center, where I could drink my fill of him. He moved slowly in, getting closer and closer, and putting ever more pressure on my prostate, then hit the spot and stopped.

"I love you, Loon," he said somewhere around there, the details are all muddled, and I couldn't tell if he was talking or talking, but it didn't matter, because he was moving deeper, now, past that other ring or whatever it is, and all the way into me.

Then the deep, loving fuck really began, and he moved effortlessly in and out, only out far enough so that the head of his dick passed over (under?) my prostate, back in to the point where he hit my spot, out until he ravaged my nut, back to the spot, in a gradually increasing tempo, and my whole being, my mind body, soul were concentrated right there, our breathing increasing further, but our mouths still fused, his thrusts a little faster, the feeling of explosion getting closer, lube almost spurting from my dick, tendrils of it swinging back and forth with our fucking, dropping all over my belly, into my navel, the bed rocking gently under us, my coil tightening past the red line.

"Brad!" I shouted in my head, "Brad! I'm . . . "

I tipped over the edge of the Grand Canyon, falling into my orgasm like a giant rock, crashing into his halfway to the bottom, and feeling every muscle in my middle tense, tighten, cramp, and release all at the same time, bearing in on his dick, deep inside me, swelling with his orgasm, pushing against mine, amplifying me, and plunging all the way to my core just as he sent a jet of his sperm into me, and I sent one sailing into the air, over the top of my shoulder somewhere, and pulled his mouth into me even farther, breathing through his mouth , getting dizzy from the overload already, feeling his second pulsing, wishing I could share my/his feeling with him, falling down into the well. His hand found my dick, and I exploded again, felt it splatter on the pillow next to my ear, and felt my body winding up for the next one as I fell farther towards the bottom. I heard him, though, just before the blackness overtook me.

"I love you Loon."

He said it in my head, it wasn't completely gone, and oh, God! I love you so!

Blackness came.