This post contains portrayals of homosexual actions and lifestyles.   There may be references to, or explicit descriptions of, sex between consenting adults.

If homosexuality, sexually explicit language, or swearing offends you, or if reading material that contains these violates any law or personal or religious beliefs, you must exit now without proceeding further.

If you’re under 18 years old you may not read it either because it is against the law.  I regret this because I was once a randy teenager myself and I feel somewhat two-faced in helping enforce the law.  Hopefully, one day, censorship may disappear along with other vestiges of Big Brother and Mother Grundy.

The story is entirely fictional.    Kirkhall Island is a fictional Barrier Island off the Georgia Coast.   All the characters are imaginary. 

The play, The Winslow Boy, was written by Terence Rattigan.   It is a stirring tale, based on true events, that shows the power of never backing down in the face of adversity. 

My thanks to Bill and Alastair who get the shoddy stuff first.   They make me insert commas and they make other suggestions on the language and the story.    Any errors that remain are probably because I ignored their advice.

Let Right be Done

by Horatio Nimier

Ever since I was coerced into taking part in a high-school play (I was the barrister, Sir Robert Morton, in The Winslow Boy) I have got a huge blast out of almost any stage show.   Be it the romantic mix-up of Twelfth Night, marbled with its subplots of the carouser uncle and his soppy drinking buddy who take the mick out of the Puritanical Malvolio, or the pounding music of a Bryan Adams concert reducing my hearing by ten decibels, be it Siegfried, surrounded by the Swan Maidens, lifting up the dying Odette, or the sudden shock of the last elimination in A Chorus Line, for a few hours I am artfully transported into another universe, leaving my oh so humdrum life behind.   

On the other hand, I like to believe money should be spent wisely, and so, understandably, I was less than thrilled when Mike informed me he had accepted an offer from a fellow lawyer to purchase tickets for the latest production at the Robert Ferst, including a celebratory dinner to precede the show.   In my experience, dinners such as this mean sitting with people whom I don't know, making banal conversation, while consuming bland chicken, unsuccessfully camouflaged with anemic gravy, and surrounded, for color, by overcooked green beans.   For this mess of potage, my guy had handed over a sum of money which could have netted him a motherboard with really fast CPU along with about a gig of memory and a sizeable hard drive.   I had been petulantly pointing this out to him when he had, very subtly, mentioned the name Bart Standford.   

Now, those of you who frequent the theaters in Georgia will recognize the name of not only one of the most promising young actors of the decade, but also a man whose handsome face and finely sculpted physique make even the hottest of porn stars look like commonplace also-rans.   And so, with an alacrity that way outpaced my urbane good manners, I accepted his invitation and the following day phoned up the local store that rents out formal wear.   

Leaving Savannah at about midday in Mike's Audi, we headed Atlanta-wards, our tuxedos hanging in the back, and a half dozen bottles of fine Australian wine in the trunk to repay Rob and Pete for allowing us to sleep at their condo.   Six hours later, freshly showered and having survived the bedlam that was Atlanta's rush hour traffic, we crossed the pools of amber light which the street lamps splashed onto the asphalt, entered the foyer of the Ferst and made our way to the pastel blue room where the dinner had been set up.   

Of course, and I haven't figured out how he manages this, Mike had The Fates side with him and they proved me wrong by making the entire dinner a culinary magnum opus.   The leisurely affair began with napkin-covered arms serving French Champagne and delicate canapés to expunge from the mind any ties to the plebian world that existed outside.   A watercress soup gave a brazen come-on, New Zealand lamb, succulent and rich, let free its juices to entice us further into wantonness and, finally, the consummation of the meal came in the form of a delicate creation of vanilla, cream and meringue.   Some sixty minutes after I had sat down, with appetite now sated and with a fine port in hand, I sat back and smiled at Mike.   

“I've finally figured out why I hang out with a lawyer:  it's to get invited to do's like this!”

“Better than computer parts, isn't it?” he asked blithely.   I gave him my patent, you-were-right-again smile in return.   Putting down his glass, he turned to me with the smile of the patient teacher and continued,   “It's our mission in life to attempt to educate the masses.   We pulled straws for our novitiates and I got you.”

“First time in your life you won anything!”

“Who said I won?”

I grinned at him.   Life didn't get much better than this.   

I sipped my port and was contemplating my chances of meeting Mr. Standford before the evening was over, when a voice behind me said, “Excuse me.   It's Mr. Jorgensen, isn't it?”

Mike and I turned to see a ruddy-faced man with a football-player physique standing behind us.   

“Yes, I'm Mike Jorgensen, and you are…”  Mike said pushing his chair back and standing up, “Captain Campbell,” he added as the name came back into his mind, “Atlanta City Police Force, if I remember correctly?”

The other man beamed as he took Mike's hand.   “I'm flattered that you remember me.”

“It was an interesting case.”

“Ha!” laughed the officer, “Yes it was.   And so was your cross-examination.   Not many people can make me squirm on the stand, but you did.”

Mike smiled and turning to me said, “Chris, may I introduce you to Captain Campbell?   This is my partner, Chris Lawrence.” There wasn't a hint of change to the genial visage as I received a firm handshake and an insistence to call him Ben.   From the brief explanation he gave me as he let go of my hand, I discovered that, a year or so back, he had been a witness in a case where Mike had appeared as attorney for the defense.   Apparently Mike's cross-examination had been grilling, but had left the officer with a respect for my guy's abilities and a keenness now to renew the acquaintanceship under more auspicious circumstances.   

“Are you finished with your meal?” he asked us, and when we nodded he continued, “Bring your drinks and come across to our table, I'd like my wife to meet you.” We stood up and followed him amongst the chatting guests to the other side of the room.   “Pull up some chairs and join us,” he instructed after we had been introduced to his spouse as well as the few other people at the table and the synopsis of the cross-examination had been repeated for their benefit.   

“So, what brings you here tonight?   Pleasure rather than business, I hope?” Mike asked making small talk as we sat down.   

“Well, tonight we're here for pleasure, but I'll admit our invitation was extended as a result of an investigation I played a minor part in.”

“Saved the theatre from being swindled out of millions?” Mike inquired, his lightness masking the innate curiosity I knew he had for anything that might be out of the ordinary.   

“Not really,” said one of the other guests at the table, one David Porter and the show's producer if I remembered the introductions correctly.   “It was, in some ways, more serious than that.   Let me recount it to you, since it has all the trappings of a stage drama.   It was one of our leading set designers.   His partner…” and thus began an interesting tale with Porter and Campbell filling in the areas as each recalled the events that had transpired.   


The broad staircase, embellished with solid brass handrails, evoked an earlier era of gentlemen in black tie and ladies whose long dresses swished over the plush red carpet that covered its treads.   Here, in spite of the ban on smoking that had been in place for over a decade, the ambiance and sumptuous décor could trick the brain into sensing the aroma of a Victor Sinclair, a Joya de Nicaragua or, if one chose to imagine oneself in the company of a true aficionado, the stronger scent of a Punch Corona obtained via obscure and untraceable routes.   

With the echoes of the ovations for the evening performance of The Music Man redounding in their ears, Gene and Donny slowly descended these same stairs, hemmed in by other members of the ebullient audience declaring and discussing their favorite scenes.   Their headway was no quicker when they arrived in the ritzy, Arabesque foyer of The Fox Theater, where the flow of people broke up into groups, eddying around as they searched for friends, the exit, the bathrooms.   The Fabulous Fox, as it was sometimes known, could entrance anyone with its Arabian Knights architecture, and their slow progress did not trouble the two young men in the least.   They were still engaged in animated conversation when they were finally disgorged into the chilly night air of Atlanta in March.   The sky was clear, stars shining from the black overhead just as the little lights embedded in the blue ceiling had done inside the theater.   Scarves knotted around their throats and hand in hand they headed up the sidewalk towards their apartment about eight blocks away.   Immersed in their discussion, they turned off Peachtree Street and away from the traffic.    The air held the nip of the only recently departed winter and the two kept a brisk pace.   City dwellers, they paid scant attention to the sound of a vehicle behind them, turning only at the sound of a slamming door and running footsteps behind them.   

“Fucking fags,” screamed one of four young men as he lunged at Donny, grabbing his collar and pulling him to the ground.   Days later Donny would still recall the mephitic smell of cigarettes and beer on the hoodlum's breath as he was held prone on the ground in a neck lock.   Pulling his arms back, Gene slid out of his jacket, freeing himself from the clutches of a second man and, as he turned, a movement, caught in his peripheral vision caused, his head to jerk around.   Instinctively he ducked as the wooden bat passed within millimeters of his ear.   His reaction was visceral:  reaching out he grabbed his assailant, trying to wrest the club from his hand, all the time endeavoring to move the fight into the road where, hopefully, they'd be more visible and someone would come to their aid.   

Yet it was to no avail:  the remaining two thugs from the pickup waded into the scuffle, punching and kicking savagely at Gene until he fell to the ground at the edge of the curb.   With his assailant holding him helpless, Donny watched in horror as the brute holding the baseball bat drove it again and again into Gene's face.   Screaming in horror he was forced to witness the wood rise and fall, time and time again, the golden color of the varnished wood changing to a bright red, tiny crimson drops arcing outwards like rose petals blown by the wind.   Unrelenting, blow upon blow, until the shape lying on the ground ceased to move.    Only then did the pulsating tones of sirens echo from the distance and Donny's antagonist let him go with a punch to his head that sent him skidding across the concrete.   

“God hates you; we're gonna send you all to Hell where you belong,” the fourth man yelled, pausing momentarily to aim a kick at Donny's ribs as he ran back to the truck.   There was a squeal of tires, a final yell of “Die, fags!” before the black pickup with the Stars and Bars flag in the rear window and the word Ford in white on the tailgate faded from the young man's eyes as he lapsed into unconsciousness and quiet returned to The City Too Busy to Hate.   

It was quiet.   Everything was white.   Blinding white.   The air was scented — why was it, Donny pondered briefly as he struggled to balance himself from the floating sensations, that clouds smelled so clean?    Why didn't they have the damp smell of fog?   “I've died.   I'm dead and I'm rising to Heaven,” the explanation flashed through his brain.   He tried to move his arms or kick out to keep from falling, feeling it would be undignified to arrive in front of St. Peter as though he had tumbled down an escalator.   His limbs would not respond and he continued to drift, tumbling helplessly in the achromic environment.   At one point, sensing a vague movement to one side, he made a Herculean effort to see what it was, but attempting to turn his head caused a stab of pain down his neck and he let out an involuntary moan.   

“Try and lie still,” a voice said.   “It won't hurt so much.”

“Who are you?   Where am I?” he asked, confused yet somewhat comforted that he was not alone, that he had, at least, a companion in the afterlife.   

“You're in hospital, son.   Someone beat you up pretty good.”

The anxiety of meeting his Maker face to face began to subside.   Now, with something tangible as an anchor, ever more quickly, memories came rolling back into his brain.   “Where's Gene?   Is Gene OK?” he mumbled over dry tongue.   

“Gene?   Is that your friend?”

“Yes.” It hurt to move his mouth but it seemed important for him to say more, “He's my partner.”

There was the briefest of pauses and the response came “I'll ask the doctor.   He was hurt pretty bad.”

The specter's arms made some movements above his head and Donny drifted back into his ethereal doze.    The answer to his question he heard only many hours later when the hospital staff finally allowed Daniel and Marty to visit him briefly.   They held each other tightly as the tears rolled down their faces onto the white sheets.   

For Donny, the days after that became a mélange of drugged haziness, painful changing of dressings, and aching healing that all fused into a dark frame surrounding the huge void inside his chest that hurt so badly.    Emotional pain so deep he often found himself with tears coursing down his cheeks and wishing that it had been his fortune, too, to die.   

During one of his periods of lucidity a policeman had come by to ask questions.   With an overwhelming sense of obligation, nay, duty, to Gene, he had tried his best to give the officer a coherent description of everything he could remember of that night.   Putting aside the pain which ensued, he burst open the seals on the innermost chambers of his brain that mental self-preservation had so firmly locked closed.   He forced the retina of the mind to recall each dent and mark on the pickup truck; every detail of denim, boot and cotton that had clothed their assailants.   Yet, however hard he tried, he felt his description lacked coherence:  every time he came close, his memory skipped to the resonating, dull thunks of a baseball bat repeatedly impacting flesh and bone.   Several times he broke down, sometimes in sorrow, more often in frustration over his inability to paint a clearer picture, and the tears ran freely out of his eyes.   

The day after he heard that Donny had been discharged, that same policeman, this time accompanied by a colleague, buzzed for access at the apartment building where the young man lived.   As he waited for an acknowledgement, he noted the little card below the button still contained two names and he wondered to himself when Donny would find the strength to replace it with a card that held only his name.   `Sufficient unto the day…   ,' he thought as a tired voice came through the speaker.   The figure who answered the door of the upstairs apartment caused the officer to take an involuntary step back:  clad in sweats that looked as though they'd been slept in, day old stubble sprouting from a face that seemed too young to produce it, the man looked worse than when he had been in the hospital hooked up to monitors and with tubes extruding from the thin body.   Captain Campbell, as his proffered business card identified him, made no remark, however, and once inside waited patiently as a plate with a half-eaten pizza was removed from the table where they were to sit.   Only after he had unobtrusively brushed some errant crumbs away and set his folders down did he begin the conversation while his colleague sat quietly making notes.   The two officers spent more than an hour going over all that Donny had told them previously, fleshing out details and asking questions when the story became murky.   Finally the older policeman withdrew some ten photographs from a manila folder and placed them in a neat row on the wooden surface.   Donny scanned each face intently until, the instant his eyes focused on the fifth image, he felt his stomach clench into a ball and he almost retched:  it was the very man who had swung the baseball bat repeatedly onto Gene's face and head.   

“Take it easy, son,” the policeman spoke quickly, “Are you OK?”

“That's the bastard.   He was the one that hit Gene with the bat.” His voice broke and once more the salty water ran down his face.   “He clubbed him to death,” he sobbed.   

A breakdown such as this during the identifying process was not unusual, Campbell knew from experience, yet he never became inured to it.   Still a little embarrassed, the policemen waited until Donny could compose himself sufficiently to make a formal identification of the man.   The boy picked the photograph up and turned it over in his long fingers.   Written neatly on the back of the picture was a name:  Tanner Glazer.    He stared at the characters for almost half a minute before he set the picture down and resumed the scanning.   He checked each carefully until, on the very last, he recognized the face that had been yelling in his ear as the arms had held him immobile on the sidewalk.   Involuntarily his hand went to his throat and he moved backwards tipping over his chair.   

“They're from up in Dawson County,” the younger policeman said as he carefully placed the photographs back into the envelope.   “Apparently they hang out with Glazer's younger brother, Odis, and another no-good called Ben Wiltsey.   They're trouble makers.   OK, let us see what we can do.”

But, as things turned out, what the police could do was absolutely nothing.   Four days later the Captain returned, alone, to report that the four young men had been located but had given sworn statements, backed by another such given by Tanner's father, that they were nowhere near that part of Atlanta on the night.   “I can't go to the Prosecutor with that,” he explained.   In his mind he wondered why the words came out sounding like a plea for understanding.   “What it comes down to is one person's word against five.   We tried everything:  we searched the Glazer home and the truck, but we couldn't find the baseball bat you described, no bloodstained clothes, nothing:  we have no evidence at all other than your testimony.” Humanely he omitted the elder Glazer's defiant statement that homosexuals were Satan's attempt to interrupt God's lineage and it was every Christian's duty to stamp them out by whatever means possible.    The young man didn't need to hear that, nor did he merit, in his drained state of mind, hearing that the policeman was privately convinced that five acts of perjury had been committed.   

Donny erupted and, with angry tears coursing down his face, denounced the entire legal system from the legislature to the police force as he strode up and down the room.   The Captain listened quietly as the words lashed at him, understanding that the outburst was more cathartic and less troubling than a bottled-up silence would have been.   When Donny finally quietened and sat down at the table, the policeman put out his hand and touched his arm.   “I know you are hurting, son, but what you have to do now is survive.    Everything else is past and cannot be changed.   

“You have to let go and look after yourself.”

“That's easy for you to say,” Donny said sardonically as he stood up and fetched a wad of tissues from the bathroom.   Coming back he took a glass down and filled it with water from the tap.   “Want some?”

“Sure.   Thanks.   Look,” the uniformed man said as Donny handed him a glass and sat down again, “I can understand you looking at me and thinking `This guy can walk down a street, uniform, night stick, gun, and who is going to mess with him?' Well let me tell you, every cop lives his life looking over his shoulder.    Plenty of folk we deal with have a score to settle with the police, and many times any cop will do.   

“There are some things, though, that you can do to help minimize your chances of being attacked again.”    He pulled himself up to the table and took a clean sheet of paper out of the manila folder.   “In most, almost every, attacks, there are five distinct stages.   Folk call them the five T's.   

“The first T is Target.” His ball point underlined the word he wrote on the paper.   “Avoid places where you make yourself an easy target.   Don't be walking down deserted streets, alleys, or almost-empty parking lots, or even Piedmont Park late at night.   If you have to go to one of those places, take a cab.   

“Then there's the Test.” Again he wrote the word and underlined it.   “The attacker isn't brave — he'll be assessing whether you are a target he can take.   Maybe he'll ask you the time, or for directions.   Any hesitation in your answer, any tone of compassion, gives him the idea that you can be taken.   Best answer is `Don't know!' and move away with purpose.   That's a point:  any time you walk, walk with a purpose, as though you know where you're going and how to get there.   

“Up until now, no law has been broken.   But at number three, Threaten, it becomes an assault.   He doesn't have to touch you:  threatening words are enough.   Here you have to take back control of the situation.   Shout, scream, move away.   

“Number four is Touch.   In the courts they call this battery.   Now you must do whatever it takes to keep yourself safe.   Stab the attacker with a ball-point,” he gripped his own pen like a dagger and made a downward arc with his arm.   “Push your fingers into his eyes.   Punch him hard on the nostrils, your punch going upwards.   Hold your car-keys in your fist with the sharp part of the keys pointing out between your fingers.   You'd be surprised at how effective everyday things that you have with you can be when used with force.   

“The last one is Take Off.   After the attack when the assailant is leaving, your sole purpose is to survive.    Don't follow them, don't stop to throw something at them.   Get yourself to somewhere safe where people can see you and come to your help.” 

He turned the paper around and pushed it across the table to the thin young man.   “Remember those, Donny.   Don't you become the next victim.”

Donny sat still, looking at the glass in his hands.   Eventually he lifted his eyes and said, “I was the one who wanted to walk home.   If we'd taken a cab, Gene would be here now.”   The voice was piteous as if desperately seeking an absolution that he knew no living person could give him.   

“You mustn't look at it that way.   You would be responsible only if you could have known what was going to happen.”

“And those bastards get away with it?”

“No.   For now they do, but it'll only be a matter of time.   One day they'll slip up and we'll get them.”

“And meanwhile I and every other gay guy in Atlanta must wait for the next attack?”

“Look, son, it's natural to grieve — it's good for you, but don't let it consume you.   Get on with your life, be aware of what's going on around you, but carry on living.   Otherwise these punks claim two victims not one.”

But in spite of the policeman's words, their scant comfort waned after the front door had closed after him leaving Donny feeling very alone and dispirited.   

The theater at Georgia Tech where he worked full time provided little relief either:  his work became lackluster and his social life deteriorated to lunch times in the cafeteria, sitting amongst people who wanted to be his friends yet unable to breach the wall of isolation he'd built around him.   To their jokes, to their gentle questions, he responded with single words or, at most, short sentences, before relapsing into silence.   

Past eleven on a Friday night, almost a month later, the second shoe dropped.   He had just fallen asleep when the phone rang.   Fumbling around in the dark, Donny picked it up.   The conversations, music and mild shouting of almost any North American bar on a weekend night sounded in the background.    “Hello?”

“Hey, faggot, we ain't forgotten you.”

“Who is this?”

“Have you forgotten me so soon?” the voice asked in mock concern and there were guffaws of laughter in the background.   “Well we haven't forgotten you.   Your cop friend came out here alookin' for my baseball bat, but you know, he couldn't find anything.   They don't know where to look, but it's right here in the bar with me and my friends, and it's waiting for you.   I can still see the fudge-packer blood on it, but now it tells me it's hungry for faggot.   It wants more.   It keeps telling me that, fairy boy.   So one night I'm gonna have to help it out.   We gonna find you, boy, and then me and my bat are going to send you to join your friend in butt-fuck hell.”   As Donny moved the phone away from his ear he could hear the shrieks of laughter and he killed the call with a push of the button.   He returned the instrument to its cradle, setting the ringer to off.   

For a long time after that Donny sat on his bed shaking.   Even when he finally lay down and pulled the duvet over himself, sleep eluded him and he lay awake in the dark, hugging himself protectively.   Around five in the morning he gave up even trying to keep his eyes closed.   Swinging his feet to the floor, he stood up, pulled on his sweats and stumbled through to the kitchen.   Once he had a mug of hot coffee in his hands, the young man sat down at the scrubbed pine table sipping the scalding liquid and thinking.   He could not stay there:   he would have to move.   Somewhere up north where there were fewer of these mindless bigots.   Maybe even Canada.   His eyes roamed around his apartment looking at everything that had made this his home.    Posters from shows adorned the walls he and Gene had stripped and repainted;  the shelves of books, some of them they'd read together, snuggled close under a blanket on the sofa on a rainy afternoon;  his homemade racks for their CDs — he knew he'd never throw the ones Gene had liked but he had hated, away.   All this stuff he could move:  he could set up life anew somewhere else.   But there would be no record of Gene there. 

His gaze swept over the small side table where the paper that Captain Campbell had written on weeks before still lay.   He cleaned over, picked it up, and the words.   One, two, three, four, five, and each word with its large capital T and heavy underlining.   

“Yeah, right!” he muttered crinkling the sheet up into a ball and flinging it across the room.   He picked up the mug and, with elbows resting on the table, returned to his brooding.   A feeling of total powerlessness swamped him and his mind reeled.   Beyond the windows the city barely stirred.   Mug in hand he stood up and walked across the room.   Raising the lower sash he leaned out into the brisk morning air, feeling the sill push into his groin as he hung his head out further and looked down.   The streets were almost deserted:   an elderly woman in an oversized grey coat, the color almost blending with that of the sidewalk, shuffled along, pushing her belongings in a shopping cart.   Five stories below, the paddle-like fans of the air-conditioning and heating plant barely turned.   With a brief howl, three motorcycles raced across the intersection headed north to the mountains, but within a minute the canyon walls of the high buildings swallowed even the echoes of their Vance and Hines and the old woman was once again the only moving thing in sight.   He watched her poke around a trash can looking for anything salvageable:  what vain hope urged her to persevere in such a lonely and arduous life, Donny wondered?   Was the miserable hag's existence that much better than his that she should cling to it so desperately?   

With a start, he pulled his head and body back inside as he realized with a jolt that, subconsciously, the concept of suicide, of ending all this, had slipped into his mind.   “Don't be so friggin' stupid,” he thought.    He tipped the cup up, sending the last of the tepid coffee down his throat then walked across the room and picked up the paper ball.   Back at the table he smoothed it out and read through the words once more, this time with more intent, and when he had finished he sat back deep in thought.   As the sun picked up the top of the tall buildings on Peachtree he got back into bed, pulled the duvet up, and fell into a dreamless sleep.   

The brush with self-destruction had shaken him, but it proved to be a turning point.   He reported the call to Campbell, but did not seem perturbed when no-one remembered anyone in particular using the phone in the Dawson County bar that night.   He returned to work with a vigor that, unknown to him, saved him from receiving the termination letter that had already been typed.   He was not as sociable as he had been before the attack, but neither was he as reclusive as he had been after it.   The following weeks for Donny were hectic.   The new show coming to the theater took nearly all his time:  props needed to be planned, designed and built; backdrops had to be painted, arranged and hung.   He worked hard and long.   Everyone noted the change in attitude with relief even if they had no comprehension of what had brought it about.   Now he worked late most evenings getting everything shipshape, but they also noted that on Friday afternoons he left promptly at knock-off time and, from unanswered phone calls, it seemed he was never at home on those or Saturday nights, his nondescript VW Jetta turning into the garage of his apartment long after midnight.   

It was a Tuesday morning, almost two months after the attack and just over four weeks after the threatening phone call.   There had been a couple more of these, each on a Friday night, but he'd not been home and he merely re-recorded the messages on a little cassette tape recorder before erasing the original from his answering machine.   The calls didn't faze him as much any more.   What had jolted him was what he'd found just over a week before as he turned into his parking space in the apartment garage somewhere about 2am on a Saturday morning.   As the headlights lit up the wall they spotlighted the word FAG, in strident, neon-pink letters that had been sprayed on the whitewashed concrete wall.   He had sat in his car, staring at the large letters in the headlights for a full five minutes before he had dared to get out.   They knew where he lived.   

His attitude was toughening, however, and he had not bothered to try and erase the letters.   Every night when he swung his car into its spot he read the word.   

On this particular Tuesday morning, the graffiti slur was far from his mind as he busied himself attaching the cables that would allow the heap of painted black material at his feet to be moved rapidly into place for the final scene of the play.   It was the last of the backdrops and he'd been working on it for a while — indeed it had been completed only a day or so earlier.   Hearing his name called, he turned and saw Captain Campbell step carefully across a snake's nest of electrical wires as he walked across the stage.   

“Hello, Donny.   How're things?”   He asked as he came closer.   His voice was pleasant but there was no smile on his face.   

“Pretty good.   Keeping busy,” the slim young man replied, standing up and wiping his palms on his jeans before taking the policeman's outstretched hand.   “Coming to see the show next week?” he asked gesturing across the debris-littered stage.   

“I may do.   I wasn't planning on it, but I haven't been to the theater in years so maybe I'll bring Mama down.   Is it a play you think she'll like?”

Donny pursed his lips as he thought then said, “Yeah, I think you both could enjoy it.   It's different, but it's basically a love story and women like that.   

“What brings you to this part of the city?”

“Is there some place we can sit and talk?”

Donny waved at the empty theater.   “Way in the back there we'd be able to sit fairly comfortably, or we can grab some coffee and go outside.”

“Let's go outside.   Coffee is what I need.”

Securing the cable he had been working with, Donny led the way backstage to where there was a coffee machine then, after two Styrofoam cups had been filled, he pushed open a metal door and the two stepped onto the green lawns of the campus.   The trees, already in full leaf, cast short shadows across the grass and the concrete step where they sat down was pleasantly warm after the chill of the air-conditioned stage.   

“So what can I do for you?” asked Donny sipping the hot liquid and not looking at the police officer.   

“I went to your apartment to speak to you this morning but you'd already left.”

“Yeah, lots of work to do just before a show starts.   The director always has last-minute changes and then things don't work the way we'd thought they would so we have to rearrange stuff.”

“Yes, that's how things happen,” responded the cop as he surveyed the area around them.   He took a sip from his cup and, when he'd swallowed, he remarked, “Interesting paint job on your parking space wall at the apartment.   Is that how you reserve it for yourself?”

Donny gave a short laugh at the attempt at humor.   It actually was a bit funny.   “No.   Someone else did it for me about a week ago.”

“Do you know who did it?”

“No,” the slim youth answered a bit too quickly and the policeman sighed inwardly as he recognized the tone of a lie.   

“Well,” he continued, “I doubt there'll be any more.”

“You going to put a resident cop in my apartment garage?” the boy asked slyly.   

The Captain considered his reply and the surface of his coffee for a good minute before he spoke again.    “Four men died in a car wreck up in Dawson County on Friday night.   Saturday morning, actually.”

“Oh,” was all the reaction the statement produced and again the law enforcement professional considered the significance of that for a few seconds.   

“The men were the same ones we had questioned after your…er…friend was killed.”

“Then there is a God and there is justice,” the words came out as a matter-of-fact statement as Donny turned his head and held the policeman's gaze.   

“The Dawson Sheriff gave me a call:  he knew that I'd been interested in these four previously and he thought I might like to know.   I drove up there Saturday morning.   The pickup was a write-off:  it had gone head on into the concrete side of a bridge, spun around and landed upside down in the creek below.”

“Pickups aren't the safest of vehicles according to the reports I read on the web.” Again the unemotional reply:  for all the feelings shown they could have been discussing the mechanism that raised and lowered the boom for the cars entering the garage a few feet away.   

Once again the response was analyzed before the next piece of information was offered.   “They found quite a bit of stuff in the wreckage.   Much of it was the normal stuff you'd expect to find in that kind of a vehicle:  empty and half-empty packs of cheap cigarettes; old plastic cups; receipts from gas stations.    There were five smashed beer bottles with their caps still on, and the cardboard carriers for six six-packs.    We found the cash slip for them, too.   Been bought at about seven that night at a gas station down in Forsyth.”

“Well that would probably be a clue to the cause of any accident, I'd reckon.”

“Yes.   They were all well over the legal limit.”

Donny nodded sagely as though he had given quite a bit of thought to the mindset of young guys in a boozy euphoria driving a pickup.   

“We also found a spray can of bright pink paint.”

Donny gave a short, cynical laugh.   “Oh, big deal.   I'd bet, if you asked around up there, the local minister would swear it was for repainting the church.”

“We also found a baseball bat.” For the first time that morning the policeman's mind recorded a recognizable reaction to this in the stiffening of the younger man's neck while his free hand clenched momentarily.   There was a brief silence.   

“Lots of baseball bats around these parts.”   Back was the pleasant conversational tone.   

“This one had traces of blood on it.   Some hairs, too.   We're running the DNA, but the group was A positive.   According to the reports from the hospital that's the same as your friend's.”

“Gene, for God's sake.   Gene Grider.   He was a real person.   He woke up, went to sleep, ate, drank, laughed, worked, had a life.   He was not jut my `Er Friend'”

`Well that one hit a nerve,' the policeman thought, but aloud he apologized, “Yes, I know.   I'm sorry.   I wasn't thinking.”   There was another silence, longer this time.   

“So, the four men are all dead?” Donny asked, his voice normal again.   

“Yes.   Two died at the scene, one on the way to the hospital and the last one on Saturday afternoon.”

“Who was that?”

“Tanner Glazer.   His injuries were bad.   They worked hard on him, but he was too badly hurt.”   Campbell paused.   “Why?   Does it make a difference?”

“Yes.   It makes every difference in the world.” The young man's chest rose and fell deeply almost as though he'd been running.   “It took Gene a long time to die.   Tanner was the guy that beat him.   An eye for an eye.   Isn't that what The Good Book says?”

“That's what some folk hold,” the Captain admitted as he finished his coffee.   The silence returned, and when Donny made no further comment the policeman continued, “Anyway, I thought you might want to know.   Maybe sleep better at night.”

“Yes.   I shall.” Donny stood up and tipped the dregs from his cup onto the grass.   “Thanks for coming by to tell me.”

“No problem.   You take care of yourself, you hear?”

“Will do,” the young man said shaking the outstretched hand.   As they parted he turned and called out, “By the way, thanks for those `Five T's' points.   They really helped me a lot.”

The utterance of those words caused a great deal of reflection in the policeman's mind as he drove back through the city traffic.   


“It's not that they're trivial.   There's a lot of good common sense encapsulated in them.   But the way he said that they had helped him was so uncharacteristically an overstatement for him — so out of context at the moment he said it.   

“It was a strange thing to say,” Mike agreed.   “I wonder if there was anything behind it?”

“His whole demeanor sounds odd to me,” Mrs. Campbell added looking around at each of us.   “Out of the blue he's told about four people being killed and he's neither devastated, taken aback, or — and I could understand it, I think — somewhat satisfied.   

“It's almost as though it came as no surprise to him.”

“I couldn't say,” her husband said.   “He didn't seem to have been expecting me when I came to the theater.   No, I almost got the impression that it wasn't that the news was not a surprise, inasmuch as he believed in some supernatural wheels of justice having turned slowly but to an inevitable end.   Like one of these strange Oriental beliefs.”

“Where was Donny at the time of the accident?” I asked what seemed to me to be the most natural question.   

The policeman gave me a smile and replied, “I have no idea.   I never asked him.   Nobody suggested to me that a crime may have been committed, other than DUI, and my personal curiosity wasn't grounds for asking what may, to him at least, have come across as an accusation.”   He held my gaze for several seconds, the significance of which I couldn't decipher, then lifted the snifter and took a sip of his cognac.   

“But, in reality, we have pretty solid evidence that no-one else was involved in the crash,” he continued in a matter-of-fact tone when he had swallowed.   “Less than a minute after the accident, the Reverend Jameson, pastor of the First Baptist Church in Dawsonville, came on the scene.   He had been sitting with a member of his congregation whose daughter was very sick and had been driving home.   The pickup truck had blasted by him at high speed a few miles before, he recalled, and no vehicle had passed him coming the other way.   

“The second person to arrive at the scene was a young guy who worked in a fast food place and was on his way home after closing up the shop.   He came in the opposite direction and he, too, is certain that no vehicle had passed him in either direction for several minutes before the accident.   On that section of Route 9 there aren't any side-roads either.”

“Ah.   Well that makes it kinda watertight doesn't it,” I agreed.   

There was the slightest of pauses as the policeman's eye searched mine for an ulterior motive, but finding none he replied, “Yes.   We reckon that the driver either lost control of the truck because they were speeding or because a deer ran into the road.   There's no evidence, though, that they actually hit one.”

“That's always what scares me when I'm riding my bike at night,” I admitted.   “Even when they're just on the side of the road, you never know what deer are going to do.”

“So there's no suspicion on this Donny guy then?” asked Mike.   

We all waited his response, but there was a long silence before the Captain answered and he seemed to be searching for something on the surface of his brandy.   “The guy's reaction really troubled me at first.   But then, you know, in thinking it over, I've come to the conclusion that what got under my skin about his remarks was…that they were almost too close to what I'd been thinking subconsciously myself.   The rational part of my brain, of course, was doing all the expected things:  bad accident, too fast, drinking, tragic loss of life.   The way we're taught to think from childhood onwards.   But deep down and unrecognized for a long time, like something left over inside me from my distant ancestors, I had to admit, that I, too, thought that Justice had in some way been served.”

There was a great deal of profundity in that statement and I don't think any of us were courageous enough to want to go into too much self-examination right then.   And so the conversation drifted onto other topics, and, when the gongs finally sounded for the start of the evening's performance, we were a jovial group that made our way towards the ushers.   

The play was intriguing and very well produced and acted.   Set in Viet Nam during the last years of the twentieth century it juxtaposed a young American truck driver with a beautiful Vietnamese girl and the differences in their backgrounds and personalities.   Bart Standford played the part of the trucker and, again, those of you who have seen him on the boards, will, no doubt, find it very credible that Mike had to whisper `Down Boy!' in my ear when the actor made his entrance wearing nothing but tight jeans and sneakers.   But, my hormonal bias aside, the plot was intriguing, the acting excellent, and the sets transported the audience into a far corner of the Asian world.   So wrapped up were we in the plot and the ambiance of the setting that Mike and I remained in the auditorium during the interval, chatting to Campbell and his wife rather than allowing ourselves to be dragged back into present-day Atlanta by visiting the foyer.   It was while we were thus engaged that a slim young man in the black jeans and black T-shirt uniform of his profession came in from a side door and made his way over to us.   

“Well, what do you think?   Was it worth driving across town for?” he asked the Captain.   

“I think the play is superb, Donny.   Thank you so much for the tickets,” Mrs.   Campbell said after we had all been introduced.   He diffidently responded that it had been his pleasure and we chatted briefly about the performance before he had to dash off again.   

“Wait by that door after the show and I'll take you backstage,” he offered as he moved off.   

“I'd better ask Campbell to lend me his handcuffs for you if we're going backstage,” my consort whispered to me as we settled down.   

“Hmmm…a little worried about how the cool lawyer will stack up against the handsome actor are you?” I asked teasingly.   

“Nope.   I'll win hands down.”

“You sure?” I asked.   

“Uh-huh.   Because he doesn't love you like I do!”

I looked into those eyes.   He didn't know it, but it was they that would hold me captive even if seven Standfords were to beckon.   “That's true,” I admitted and gave his thigh a squeeze.   I settled back in my chair, then a thought occurred to me and I turned to Mike, “But if Bart follows me home can I keep him?”

The second act didn't disappoint us and the interplay between the American trying to engender a consumer society with its market-based behavior and the young girl, wise beyond her years, bringing home to him the values of her simple life was well brought out.   Far too soon, we found ourselves on our feet, applauding as the cast took their curtain calls.   

While the rest of the audience straggled out, the four of us enthused amongst ourselves about the show and then moved toward the exit door at the front as Donny had suggested.   We had waited only a few minutes when, true to his word, he appeared to lead us onto the stage.   

It was the first time since college I had been behind the footlights.   The slightly sour smell of the paint, the steel conduits that sprouted from massive switch boxes, the iron staircases and narrow catwalks, brought back many memories, but much had changed, too, and I was awed by the complexity of a modern theater:  the electronic controls, closed circuit TVs, radio microphones, the various backdrops that could be dropped or slid into position to alter the scene.   While the rest of our group engaged in chat with Donny and the director, I moved to the back to get a closer look at how the scenery was moved and stored.   Close up, the artwork was crude and harsh, and I marveled at how effectively it had worked in transforming this bare stage to the lot in front of an Asian store.   The outline of the American's truck was little more than daubs of paint on the black curtain and the headlights that had thrown the couple into silhouette in the final scene, were mere flat circles of shiny aluminum with twelve-volt bulbs in the center fed by thin black wires.   I stood there letting my mind discern how it had been tricked mere minutes earlier.   Closing my eyes I tried to conjure up the scene and how it had transported me so convincingly into the East Asian outback and then someone must have opened a door or the air conditioning kicked in, because suddenly my back and arms went icy cold and I opened my eyes.   I touched the black material in front of me.   It was fairly firm and I crouched down to see if it was anchored at the bottom.   

“It's all one big mirage!” a voice laughed behind me and I stood up hurriedly to face Donny who had walked over to me unnoticed.   I complimented him on his illusionary ability, discussing my fascination with camouflage and the deceptions it had achieved during the various wars.   In this way I discovered a pleasant guy with an engaging sense of humor who obviously knew his job well.   He walked me around the backstage areas, pointing out various schemes used for tricking the audience's perception of the stage.    As we began to approach the others, I turned back to one of the backdrops from the final scene.   “If I can make a suggestion, though,” I said, pointing with the toe of my boot to the curtain where it brushed the stage, “I would trim this piece off the bottom.   I doubt any difference would be noticed from the auditorium.”   I stooped and picked up some debris stuck to the cloth.   

Donny bent down to examine what I'd pointed to with my foot and his face drained of color as he stood up and his eyes fastened on mine.   “Look, it's just an idea of mine,” I tried to reassure him, “you know your job way better than I do.   In my opinion you've achieved what few others could have done.”

“You…,” he started to say but I interrupted him before he could say more.   

“It's a mere detail from an amateur who doesn't know much about the theater.   Don't sweat it.   Really.”    I placed my hand on his shoulder and pulled him closer, “What you could do for me, though, is introduce me to Bart Standford,” I proposed conspiratorially, observing my hero walk onto the stage.   

“Talk about a deer in the headlights,” laughed Mike as we lounged, drinks in hand, in the living room of Pete and Rob's condo, admiring the lights of the city that stretched away to the south.   “Chris here was so obviously besotted with that actor guy that it was embarrassing.”

“That is such a load of crap!   All I did was shake his hand and tell him I'd enjoyed the show,” I protested as I felt my face get hot.   

“That wasn't what the front of your pants was saying,” my partner chuckled.   

“Ha, ha.   Funny man,” was all I could muster in self defense and as punishment for the lameness of that remark, I took some unmerciful mocking from my friends.   I had known Pete and Rob for years — almost since I first moved to the city.   We'd met up watching the motorcycle races at Road Atlanta and from there had become regular riding buddies.   When Steve and I broke up, I had had the hospitality of their spare room and the comfort of their friendship for a month or so until I moved to Savannah, and now Mike and I inevitably stayed at their condo when we were in town.   Rob, a Brit with a piercing wit, is never hesitant to skewer one with it, and now I found myself facing an inquisition from him about my dream actor.   Eventually Mike took pity on me and steered the conversation in a different direction.   

“Well, what I started to tell you before we got sidetracked by Chris's lust, was the reason we got to meet this set designer and go backstage at all was because he had invited a police Captain and his wife to the show.   I had met this guy about a year ago in a trial I participated in and he remembered me.”

“I'm not sure that it's a great asset to have policemen remember you,” Rob remarked dryly.   

“This guy's pretty cool,” countered Mike.   “Actually, he told us a very interesting tale tonight and one that you might remember.” He took a sip of his whiskey and began to recount the story we'd heard earlier.    Pete and Rob recalled the attack quite clearly and listened attentively as Mike repeated the narrative, the two guys adding other tidbits of information as they remembered them about the effect it had had on the Atlanta Gay Community.   

“Well, there obviously is a God,” Pete said somberly as Mike finished speaking.   

“And sometimes he moves in mysterious ways,” I added as I drained my glass and set it down on the small table.   

“Yeah,” Pete agreed, “It's not always the bolt of lightning we wish for.   Not always something so plain that everyone knows where it comes from.”

But Mike knew me better.   His eyes narrowed slightly.   Running his hand up the back of my neck he asked, “What are you saying, Chris?”

“Sometimes the god is the deus ex machina.”

“I don't understand.”

“Well, don't you think it's rather coincidental that the perpetrators of this horrendous crime get their just deserts so dramatically and tidily?”

“That's what it is — a coincidence,” Pete exclaimed.   “They happen all the time.   You go to a dinner party and you find someone else has the same birthday as you do.”

“Two people in a group having the same birthday?   Not really a coincidence, buddy.   If you have about twenty-three people together, there's about fifty percent probability that two will have the same birthday.    In a group of about forty, the chances are round about ninety percent.”

“So what're you saying?   That Donny fixed the truck's brakes or something?”   Mike asked showing his skepticism.   “OK, there's motive, I'll agree.   But where's the opportunity?   City twink — and this boy defines the word twink — sliding under a pickup truck with a wrench in the parking lot of a Dawson County bar is a sure way to get the said twink sliced 'n' diced.”

“No.   He was smarter than that.   He's a professional.   He listened to that cop with those five T rules and he did what he was told:  he used what he had to defend himself.”

“Chris, I think the hormones messed with your head tonight.   Remember, Campbell said there were two other people who swore there were no other cars on the road other than theirs.   Donny'd have been noticed driving away, or walking away, if he'd been anywhere near the scene.”

“Have it your way,” I shrugged, gave him a smile, stood up and helped myself to another glass of our hosts' Cointreau.   

“OK, OK.   I'll bite.   How do you think he could've done it?”

“Not think,” I said over my shoulder from the sideboard.   “Know.”

“Oooh, I sense trouble in paradise,” Rob laughed.   

“All right.   How did he do it?”   Mike asked.   “Fuck, I hate it when your ego takes over.”

“I'm not going to tell you,” I replied with mock petulance.   

“I'll make it worth your while tonight,” he bargained back, to the catcalls from the other two guys.   

“Well, in that case,” I capitulated to the accompaniment of more ribald comments.   I took a sip of my Cointreau and sat back in the chair tucking one leg under me.   

“OK, guys.   Let's look at what we've got.   Ignore Divine Intervention for a while.   We have a savage attack that leaves one guy dead and his lover injured and grieving.   Within a few weeks the very same guys that staged this attack die in a car wreck.   Wouldn't you be inclined to say the odds were better than even that the two are linked?”

“Well they were stinking drunk, didn't you say?” Rob interjected.   “Wouldn't that make an accident more inevitable, rather than upping the odds?”

“Well, let's look at that.   We don't have much to go on, but stereotyping these folk I'd say this isn't the first time they'd been driving under the influence.   And they were driving on roads that were very familiar to them.   The padre that they passed, according to the cop, said they'd blasted past him.   He didn't, as far as I know, comment on weaving or leaving the road.”

“You're just making stuff up,” argued Pete, “you can prove anything if you can make stuff up.”

“OK, don't worry, we'll get there.   We're not proving anything right now, just building up probabilities.   

“Then the police — the very people who are supposed to level the playing field — tell him they can't bring charges.   How do you think that made friend Donny feel?   Here's this guy that lives theater.   Do you think that the idea that his companion's, his lover's, killers might go unpunished might put a little pressure on his loyalty to go out and slay a dragon or two?”

There was no response other than a shrug from Pete.   “OK,” I went on, “when the cop told Donny about the accident, as it was told to us, Donny doesn't ask much about what occurred, but what is of real importance to him?   The one thing he wants to know is how long his partner's attacker took to die.   If you're looking for evidence of revenge, isn't it there?   I think so.   But, I'll push it a bit further:  say, just for the sake of this discussion, he has nothing to do with this.   Don't you think he'd be the slightest bit keen to find out more about the accident?   If only to get a hint of Divine Intervention to comfort himself, if not prove something to a homophobic world?   

“Don't you think he, we, would be a lot more satisfied if a bolt of lightning had drilled the windshield?    Or if the oak that had stood for five hundred years had suddenly been uprooted in empyrean rage over the injustice that had been committed and toppled over on the truck?   So, if I were friend Donny, and I had no inkling of the crash, sure as shit I would want to know a whole lot more about the accident.   

“But he doesn't ask.   Because maybe he already knew.”

“You have a point there,” Pete concurred, “but how would he not have been seen doing whatever he did?    Route 9 is a country road, but cars go along it fairly regularly.   As do the cops.”

“OK,” I went on hypothesizing, “So let's just suppose our boy gets hell bent on getting even.   What's he going to do?   He can't go and fight them — it'll be a massacre and he'll be the massacree.   He's a lightweight and it's four to one — more if he goes onto their turf.   

“So, let's say he starts to think about what he's got in his quiver.   What's he got….”

I got my hair.   I got my head, I got my brains, I got my ears, I got my eyes,
I got my nose, I got my mouth, I got my teeth, I got my tongue, I got my chin,
I got my neck, I got my tits, I got my heart, I got my soul, …
” Rob burst into a slightly off key song.   

“Yeah…   pretty much, Rob,” I agreed with a resigned grin through the laughter that greeted his efforts.    Mike and Pete took the opportunity to pour themselves another whiskey and then I went on with my account.   

“As I was saying……,” I glanced at Rob out of the corners of my eyes.   

He held up his hands.   “Hey, I'll be an angel!”  But the mischievous twinkle in his eyes remained.   

“Well, let's see what this guy has at hand if he wants to go into battle.   He's got his smarts and he's got the skills of his trade.”

“He's a stage hand, for God's sake,” Pete exclaimed.   

“No.   He's much more than that:  he does set design.   He's a master of sleight of eye as you might say.”

“Holy shit!” Mike burst out.   “You think he faked the road?”

“Naah.   Not that.   Too difficult, too long to set up, too long to take down.   I reckon he faked an obstacle to cause the guy to swerve.”

“But then that priest would have seen it when he came to the accident” objected Pete.   

“It was gone by then.”

“But nobody saw this Donny carrying anything off afterwards?   He moved his props away in less than a minute?   I mean, didn't you say the priest was following only a little way behind?” Again Pete tried to drill holes in my theory.   “And how could he have known ahead of time that there wouldn't be someone else coming along with them or the other way when he set it up?”

“Not if it were one of those big foam rocks that they use in scenery,” Mike stated, seeing some merit in my theory.   

“But don't you see,” Pete argued sitting forward, “he wouldn't know that there wouldn't be another car around — in either direction — when these guys came to the bridge, would he?   That's the problem with your theory, buddy,” he said dropping his index finger at me as he sat back again.   

“Yeah, that seems too risky,” Mike concurred.   

“No, it could be done,”  I argued.   “We hear that Donny is never around on Friday and Saturday nights.   What was he doing?   I reckon he was watching the area where these guys lived.   He couldn't follow them around — sooner or later he would have been noticed.   No, I figure he watched just around the area where he knew they'd eventually come on their way home.   

“Maybe he'd been ready to carry out his plan before and been thwarted, as you said, by another car being there.   But he knew that sooner or later his chance would come.   He watched, and he waited, and he planned.   Softly, softly catchee monkey.   

“If what I think is right, things could have been set up an hour or more before they came upon it.   It would have been largely out of sight.   As they approached he moved it into place within seconds and afterwards he moved it away within seconds.   

“Ten seconds of solitude with them was all he needed.”

“Right!” said Pete, “you couldn't get this cushion into a road, cause an accident, and have it off the road again in ten seconds.”

“So what was this obstacle that was so easily moved?” asked Mike.   

“Think about the last scene of the play tonight,” I smiled at him.   

“He thought for a second and then his eyes narrowed.   “You mean the truck?”


“What truck?” asked Rob.   

“It was a backdrop,” I explained.   “Black cloth with the outline of the cab of an eighteen-wheeler on it and two aluminum disks with twelve volt bulbs for headlights.”

“And he hung that from the bridge?” Rob queried trying to envisage the scene.   

“No, the road went over the bridge.   What I reckon he did was this.   Sometime after dark he tied a pulley on a tree on one side of the road.   He ran a wire or a rope through this and across to the other side — probably to another pulley there.   So what he had was something like one of those clothes-lines that span the streets in the older sections of some European cities.   He hangs his curtain from this and waits.   If anyone drives along the road, all they can see is a cable or two crossing the road and, if they think about it at all, will probably assume they're electrical or telephone wires.   We're so used to seeing these we pay no attention to ’em.   In any case, it's night.   

“Then, when he sees his quarry coming — I don't know how he recognizes their truck, perhaps it had some sort of unusual lights on it — he pulls the curtain into the road and flicks the switch to turn the lights on.   

“The appearance of a truck on the road is the most natural thing in the world.   In the second or two the driver of the pickup has to react, he won't be doing any analysis of why the truck suddenly appeared or where it could have come from.   In any case, the booze in his system is slowing down his reasoning by a large degree.   His gut reaction takes over.   And this is where Donny's knowledge of the theater came to the fore.   He knew that the mind is easy to trick:  if a rig that wasn't there a half second before suddenly looms in front of one, what does the brain think?   That the truck is moving and moving fast.   Regardless of the bridge, the driver believes he has no time and he swerves — there is nowhere else to go and he hits the concrete wall and the speed carries the truck over and into the creek below.   

“As soon as that happens, Donny switches off the lights, hauls the curtain back into the trees, cuts the cable, it falls to the ground and he pulls it back, too.   Everything of his is now safely out of sight in the woods and, even if other people arrive, their attention will be focused on the crash scene, not on the woods where he is.   He knows this, it's his job.   He knows no one will be looking at where he is.   Our boy winds the cable into a backpack, folds the curtain up and slings it over his shoulder, and moves well back into the woods.   I don't know exactly where all this happened, but my guess there was a small forest road or some other rural road where his car was parked and he made his way to that and returned to Atlanta some time later once all the fuss had died down.   

“All that was left were one or two pulleys attached to a tree.   Perhaps they're still there, perhaps some days afterwards he returned and took them down, too.”

I finished talking and there was a silence in the room for a good thirty seconds.   

“It's a theory,” Rob said eventually, “but it'd be pretty hard to prove.   I mean, even if we went up there and found the pulleys, there'd be no proof of what they were used for, would there, Mike?”

“No,” the lawyer agreed looking at me thoughtfully.   “Even if they found Donny's footprints there it'd be pretty hard to build a case against him.   Too much time has passed.”

“So you reckon there was no Divine Intervention, Chris,” Pete spoke a tad sardonically.   “Just the perfect crime committed by an average Joe in the street.”

“It depends.   I reckon there was definitely Divine Action — you can decide for yourselves whether it was through intervention or lack of intervention.   For instance, when he saw the truck apparently in front of him, the pickup driver could have swerved to the other side of the road and missed the truck altogether; he could have swerved the way he did but missed the bridge and landed in the creek — injured, perhaps, but possibly not dead; he could have gone head-on into the truck and discovered that it was an illusion.   That, by the way, would have been the worst scenario for Donny:  he would have had a hard time getting away from the four guys then — and the evidence left behind would be pretty damning.   

“So you see, although he had stacked the deck quite heavily, the outcome wasn't certain by any means.    As for perfect crime, I dunno.   Ever since he words Thou Shalt not Kill appeared on the stone, mankind has been making exceptions.   War; capital punishment; there is a growing tide for compassionate euthanasia; but, of all the exceptions, of all the exceptions, the one almost no-one disputes is killing in self defense.   There didn't seem to be any doubt that these four were the perpetrators of really horrible actions — undoubtedly the very definition of a hate crime.   Moreover, having gotten away with it once, they could well have tried it again.   And he told of a phone call when these men threatened to take his own life just as they had taken his partner's.   Donny had allowed the law a chance to give it their best shot, but, when that didn't pan out, I could debate he had a right to go it alone, although,” I smiled at Mike and rubbed his thigh, “I'm pretty sure I'm going to get pushback from at least twenty-five percent of the people in this room!”

“Well, it'd be hard to build a good protest in this case.   But, whatever you may think from your cyberland vantage, the law exists to help people live together.   It's not perfect, we all know, but however egregious it was that these four guys got off, it is a safeguard for all of us against summary arrests and the sort of thing that, however well intentioned, can rapidly get out of control.   For example, we, and even the police, believe that the guys and their father gave false alibis for where they were at the time of the attack.   Well, what can one do about that?   Unless you're going to condone torture or the use of truth drugs, that is what you have to live with.   Part of the issue is that we have a tendency to want to see justice as swift rather than inevitable.   That's a similar misconception to your example of what we believe Divine Intervention to be.   Neither works the way we think they ought to.   Campbell was right when he told Donny that, sooner or later, these guys would do something else and they'd be caught.   Donny perhaps took that to mean that another gay guy would get murdered, but it could have been something like a DUI where a shrewd attorney could push for a tough jail sentence, then offer one of the guys a plea bargain with immunity if he admits being at the attack.   All we need is one crack and we'll nail them all.”

“Well, the point is moot now,” Pete remarked setting his empty glass down on the glass table.   “Those jerks got what they deserved.   Although I don't know that I buy Chris's theory of how it came about.”

“Hey, it could happen!” I defended.   

“Yeah, it could,” he countered, “but there are too many if's and but's to make it likely.”

I shrugged and gave him my sardonic grin.   Some folk will never believe even though a man rise from the dead.   

Later that evening, after Mike had turned off the lights and we lay together discussing the day he asked me, “About that Donny thing.   You said you knew.   What was all that about?”

“When we were on the stage and I was looking at all the scenery I happened to notice that there were traces of mud and some leaves on the bottom of that curtain.   Looked like it had been dragged across the ground.”

“Maybe from when he was painting it?” Mike tried a last defense.   

“Naah.   Then there'd have been mud elsewhere, too.   And the leaves were hemlock — and I didn't notice any of them around the Ferst.”

“Shit, Chris.” He relapsed into thought.   

The silence returned and we lay side by side staring at the ceiling as I let my fingers trace through the fair hairs on his chest.   “I almost wish you hadn't told me about that curtain and the mud.   I don't know whether I have to tell Campbell about it or not.”

The other one is this.   It’s from a slightly older source.   It is this:  you shall not side with the great against the powerless.” I delivered the words into the darkness as I had done some fourteen years before.   

“What are you talking about, Chris?”

“It comes from a play.   A lawyer is defending a young boy in court and almost the entire country thinks the boy is guilty.   

“But don't worry.   The evidence is gone now.   I told Donny to cut it off.   And I took the leaves — they're on the dresser over there.”

“You WHAT?   Fuck it, Chris!   You know better than that!   You're putting yourself up for an accessory after the fact if anything ever comes out.”

“For what?   I thought the consensus was that no crime had been committed.   Who am I to interfere with an Act of God?”

Again the darkness was quiet.   “In that play, what happened?”

“The lawyer won.   The British Admiralty backed down.   Right was done.”

His chest rose and fell under my hand.   

“Fuck, Chris.   I just know I am going to end up getting disbarred if I hang out with you long enough!”

“Then let's get you disbarred for committing a felony,” I said moving over him.   

“The Supreme Court says it's not,” he mumbled as my lips closed on his.   

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