The following work is complete fiction. Any similarity with existing people or places is purely coincidental. It may also contain scenes of sexual activity between males; if it is illegal for you to read this or if you feel you may be offended by reading it, please do not do so. Because the story takes place in 1971, some characters may engage in behavior which is considered unsafe today. If you are not abstinent, please respect yourself and your partner by being safe.
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"I think it was perfectly disgraceful. He was sitting right there with Grace, in front of everyone. At her son's funeral! I would never have been able to show my face in church if that had been Christopher or Brian. Well, of course, everyone knew they were, but it was church, for goodness sake. Oh, I know, but I don't like the way things are changing. And, I will never accept that. Well, of course Stephen was a nice boy. At least he was one of the good ones. He never rubbed it in anyone's face. But, for Jack to be sitting there in the family pew, next to Grace! Well, I let Father know my opinion in no uncertain terms!"
I stood in the foyer as Mother sat in the living room talking with a friend on the telephone. I couldn't move as I listened to her. She was still in the clothes she had worn to the funeral as she sat on the couch facing away from me. I had just come downstairs from changing my clothes.
"Well, he's still numb. Yes, I know, its dreadful. Well, he spends most of his time with that awful Partridge boy. Well, yes its embarrassing. My goodness, but he's the first real friend Chris has had in several years. No, I can't imagine what he sees in him. His father is such a disgrace and he's so, so common acting. Well, he'll have to cut his hair before school starts. They won't tolerate that. Well, we're going to wait a bit, but Ted and I do want to see if we can get him to quit spending so much time with him. Well, I don't think he's into drugs, but at the very first sign, Ted will haul them before Judge Turner so fast they won't know what hit them. Believe you me. They can't pull those stunts here."
Slowly, I walked into the living room. Mother must have heard my footsteps on the carpet; she turned quickly and looked at me with irritation.
"Marion, I'm going to have to go now. Yes, of course. OK. Ta."
I just looked at her with a completely numb face. I wanted to say something, but I couldn't think of what. There was so much I could have said. Yet, did any of it really matter?
"Honey, are you OK?" Mother asked.
I said nothing and then turned, slowly walking to the front door.
"Where are you going, Chris? I don't want you going over to Alex's right now. I don't think you need to live over there. Chris? Did you hear me?
I opened the front door and stepped out onto the porch, closing it behind me. Leaving the air conditioned coolness of the house, the mid afternoon heat was like a slap in the face; but, it was welcome after the stifling feeling I had inside.
Numbly, I walked down the steps and across the front yard to the corner. I waited for two cars to pass and then walked catty-corner across the intersection; the intense heat radiated up from the asphalt to my bare legs. I trudged through the grass of the park until I came to the maple tree and sat down cross-legged in the grass. There was the usual mid afternoon traffic on Twelfth Street, a few cars along College Avenue, but almost no one else in the park. It was just too hot.
I leaned back against the tree, facing College Avenue, and looked at the "closed" sign in the window at Leonardo's.
I was all cried out. There were no tears left. I merely felt numb.
I looked up. Alex was standing before me, looking just as numb as I felt. He was wearing one of his old psychedelic t-shirts again and had put his ragged tight cut-offs back on.
He slowly sat down in front of me, cross-legged also, resting his slender hands on his knees. His hair had been pulled back into a pony-tail, but a few strands had escaped and fallen across his face. I felt ice in my chest as I gazed at his beautiful face, at the black eyebrows, the pale eyes, the cheekbones, the stray hair falling across his forehead and cheek. I looked down at the grass between my legs.
"Mother doesn't want me to be your friend. I overheard her talking to one of her snob friends. She thinks you're a bad influence on me."
Alex was silent.
"She said that after she said how disgusting it was that Jack was in the family pew sitting with Mrs. Kincaid. She even told Father Partridge she didn't approve."
"Bitch. Who's she to say who should be sitting with Mrs. Kincaid?"
Ordinarily, I would have protested Alex calling my mother such a name, even though I might have agreed with it. However, I just didn't have the energy. I did look up, though.
"You've got your hippie clothes on again."
A defiant look came across Alex's face.
"You're damn right I do. I'm not conforming to these rednecks. You heard all those whispers and comments and snickers in the church. I heard what they were saying about Stephen and Jack. Whispering behind Mrs. Kincaid's back about them being fruits and fairies.. Fucking assholes. I don't give a shit anymore what these hicks think."
I'd never heard Alex speak in this way before. There was an anger in his voice that seemed so alien to his gentle nature.
"Maybe you're just upset."
Alex looked at me as if I were an idiot.
"Of course I'm upset. I'm fucking furious!"
I looked around nervously to make certain no one had heard Alex using the "f" word. When I turned back to, he was looking at me with contempt.
"Quick worrying about what people will think," he spat at me.
I felt as if I had been slapped. Alex had never raised his voice to me before. He had never expressed anything but love before.
"You're always so damned worried about what people will think. You act like the perfect little son to Ted and Helen. 'Yes, sir;' 'No, sir;' 'Yes,ma'am;' 'No, ma'am.' Its sickening. Start being yourself! Quit worrying about what other people think. Fuck 'em. Be yourself."
"Alex..." I muttered in a state of shock.
He swallowed and looked downward.
"I'm sorry. Its just that I'm so mad at... oh, I don't know."
He reached across and took my hand, but I jerked it back in fear, looking around again to make certain no one had seen. Alex snorted and looked contemptuously at me again.
"You're gay, Chris. You're gay!"
"Shut up, you idiot!"
"You're gay and I'm gay and we love each other."
"Alex! Darn it. Shut up! Do you want to get us killed, too?"
Alex took a deep breath and then stood up. He looked down at me with a neutral expression, and then slowly and deliberately walked home.
I was sitting in the den, absent-mindedly watching Walter Cronkite at five-thirty when I heard Daddy come in the front door. Ordinarily, I would have jumped up and run to greet him. This evening, however, I didn't have it in me. I just sat in his easy chair, staring off out the window.
He had left the funeral to go straight back to the court house. After three days, there had still been no arrest and I was beginning to suspect that there would never be an arrest. Maybe the police didn't really care since it seemed that everybody knew Stephen was gay.
I heard Mother and Daddy in the kitchen talking for a moment and, then, Daddy entered the den. I didn't even look up.
"Hi, Chrisser," he said softly.
I looked up and tried to smile. Daddy walked over to the television and turned it down.
"I have some news for you."
I looked up.
"We have the man who killed Stephen."
My eyes grew wide.
"We got him. It was the man you saw outside the rec center. The Robertsons across the street were sitting on their porch and got a good look at him. We got a description of his truck, we found a boot print in the blood on the floor, we found the boot, and the Robertsons came down to the jail this afternoon and identified him."
I sighed and closed my eyes.
"What's his name?"
"Leroy Burris. He's Wardell Burris's son. You know, the people who own that junk yard on the other side of the tracks."
I jumped up.
"I have to go tell Alex."
"No you don't," Daddy said sharply. "You can wait until after dinner."
His voice was unusually sharp. Daddy never raised his voice with me, or, at least, hadn't for several years. I looked back in confusion.
"Because you don't have to live over there. You can wait until after dinner. Besides..."
Here he faltered and seemed confused. I had never seen Daddy at a loss for words before. He sighed.
"Besides, your Mother and I think you spend too much time with Alex and that it might be a good idea if maybe you tried to get more friends."
"But, Alex is the best friend I've ever had. He's the smartest friend I've ever had."
"I understand and I'm happy he's brought you out of your shell. You're back to your old self now. But... its... not good to just focus on one friend."
"It because he's different, isn't it. Its just because he has long hair. You and Mother are embarrassed that I have a friend with long hair. Or maybe its because of his dad."
"That's not true. I admit at first, I was concerned that Alex might be a bad influence on you, but he's been a good friend and I have no problem with him. Its just that we think you spend too much time with him."
I was furious. I had never been furious with my father before.
"Its Mother, isn't it?" I demanded. "She hates Alex. I heard her on the phone today with one of her snobby friends talking about how common Alex is and how she hates his long hair. She's the biggest snob in Clarkesville!"
"Young man, you will not speak disrespectfully about your Mother."
"But, Daddy, you know she's a snob."
Daddy took a deep breath. He knew she was a snob and I knew I was pushing the limit. I had never been insubordinate like this before. In the back of my mind, I could hear Alex taunting me for being "Ted and Helen's perfect little son."
"Christopher, one more word and you will go to your room without dinner."
I swallowed and closed my eyes, trying to contain my anger.
"Yes, sir. May I be excused?"
Daddy sighed and rubbed his eyes.
"Yes, you may."
Dinner was unusually quiet. Brian looked fearfully at me a few times, but I finally gave him a weak smile and he seemed somewhat relieved. I said nothing to Mother unless she spoke first. Daddy didn't seem to speak to her much either.
After we finished our chocolate pudding for dessert and Brian and I had cleared the dishes, I walked into Daddy's study, where he was opening his briefcase at his desk.
"Daddy, may I go to Alex's now?"
Daddy nodded without looking up. "Be home before nine."
"Yes, sir," I replied quietly.
Trying not to seem too eager, I didn't hurry until I was already across the street. I ran the rest of the way and found Donald sitting on the front step again, drinking another cup of coffee.
"Donald! Guess what?" I called as I ran up the walk.
"What?" he asked me with what I thought might be a smile under that beard.
"They caught the guy who killed Stephen. Where's Alex?"
"He's up in his room."
I ran up the stairs, but Alex must have heard through the window because he was running down from the third floor. We met halfway.
I explained everything I knew as we walked back up to his room. We sat cross-legged on the floor in the turret, facing each other in what was becoming our usual place to talk and be together.
"I hope they give him life in prison," said Alex bitterly.
"I hope they hang him," I declared.
"Well, I don't know about that, but I guess I wouldn't lose any sleep if they did. Is your Dad going to be the prosecutor?"
"I guess. I don't think Daddy's ever done a murder case before, but I don't know who else would do it."
"Look, I'm sorry I kinda freaked this afternoon. I'm just so upset about everything. Its like. we have to leave New York and come to some wide-spot-in-the-road, and then I meet you and everything seems so cool, and Stephen and Jack become our friends and it seems like everything's gonna be OK. And, then, this happens and I see that everything they say about small towns is true."
"Nah, I don't mean that either. I'm just upset."
I reached forward and took his hand.
"I think Daddy may be wondering if you and me are boyfriends."
Alex looked up.
"Because tonight he said we spend too much time together and he said its... its not healthy."
Alex snorted and looked away.
"I knew your Dad was a fascist."
"Hey!" I answered hotly. "Daddy's not a fascist!"
"He's afraid his son's a fairy."
"Well, every Dad's afraid of that."
It was my turn to snort.
"Yeah, well... look who we're talking about."
"Hey! Listen. I get mad at Dad because he gets too worked up about stuff and goes crazy sometimes, but its because he cares and wants to help the little guy against the big guy. Besides, he already knows were boyfriends."
My heart stopped.
Alex grinned at the look of apoplexy on my face.
"He knows. Mom knows. They both know. They don't care. They just want me to be happy. And, they know that you make me happy. Dad just doesn't understand why it has to be the Sunday School son of the District Attorney."
"You know what his nickname for you is?"
"I know. He calls me Junior Fascist."
Alex giggled again.
"No. I mean when you're not around?"
I gave him a wary look.
"That does it!" I declared, jumping up. "You're Dad and I are gonna talk!"
But, just as I started marching toward the door, Alex muttered, "What the hell?"
I turned as he was looking out the window in shock. I ran over.
A black Lincoln Town Car had just parked in the street in front of the house. In Clarkesville, that would be an event in itself. I knew of only one other Town Car and that was owned by Old Man Morgan, the President of the First National Bank. I knew there was about as much chance of Morgan coming to see the Partridges as, well, as Daddy had said on the Fourth of July, of anyone in Clarkesville mistaking Alex for a Republican.
Then, I saw him.
Standing below on the steps leading up to the front porch... Webster Hardesty.
"What the fuck is he doing here?" Alex asked.
Our eyes met and Alex stood up. He put a finger to his mouth and motioned to follow him. Quietly we crept out into the hall and leaned over the rail along the stairwell.
"Well, why don't we step into my office," Donald was saying as they entered the foyer. "Can I get you some tea or lemonade?"
I couldn't hear the response as they entered the study. Alex started creeping toward the stairs. Slowly, we crept down to the second floor. I still couldn't hear anything.
"What about your Mom?" I asked with paranoia.
"She's over at the rectory visiting Uncle Bob." he whispered.
We continued downward, but Alex stopped with only three steps to go. The door to the study was partially closed, but we could hear the conversation clearly.
"Yes, its terrible when anyone dies," Hardesty was booming in his Oklahoma accent. "Especially when they die without God's grace. Such a tragedy. Such a tragedy."
Alex looked at me with disgust. I put my finger to my mouth.
"Yes, well..." Donald replied. "So what does Stephen Kincaid's murder have to do with me?"
"Well, Donald... You don't mind if I call you Donald, do you? Good. Well, Donald, I'm not quite sure it was a murder."
Alex looked at me with outrage, his eyes huge with disbelief."
"Go ahead," said Donald.
"Well, the Public Defender's office suggested I talk with you about this. You see the Burris family is part of my congregation at Spread the Word Tabernacle. And, they are fine, hard-working, God-fearing people. I Know Leroy and he's a good boy, but he's had a tough time. You know he was in the war and it was pretty bad. Pretty bad."
There was pause. Donald said nothing.
"Well," Hardesty continued, "I understand that in war, men can lose sight of the Lord and the protection and solace he can give us. And, Satan sent some of those hoe-moe-sexual perverts to attack Leroy and he had to fight them off. Fight them! But, he saved himself from their sick perversion."
Once again he paused. Once again, we heard nothing from Donald.
"Well, the reason I know this is that Leroy's father came to me this afternoon. He's a good man, a good man, and having his son in jail and accused of murderin' one of them has just torn him up. Torn him up.
"Well, I went down to the jail and saw poor Leroy and he is brave. Brave. He knows the Lord is with him. And, he told me about that awful, terrible night in Vietnam. And, he said when that disgusting pervert approached him in the men's room, he tried to fight him off. But, the pervert went after him, Donald. He went after him, just like those Satan-sent perverts in Vietnam."
"Well, Donald, we can't let such a miscarriage of justice stand. We can't let this poor boy go to the electric chair for protecting his honor and his soul from Satan."
Alex lunged forward, but I grabbed him and held him back.
"Well, I don't think they use the electric chair in this state," said Donald dryly. "I think they hang them here. Nonetheless, are you asking me to represent him?"
"Well, I met with Mr. Simpson and I am certain he is a fine lawyer, a fine lawyer. And, he's a God-fearing man, too. I know. But, the poor man has never defended a murder case and I understand from many people that Ted Conrad has quite a reputation as a lawyer. I'm afraid that poor Leroy would be ill-served if we couldn't find him the smartest, toughest defense attorney in the area."
Alex looked at me in horror.
Donald's voice was smooth and even.
"Web, Donald. Please, if we gonna work together, I want you to call me Web."
There was a pause before Donald resumed.
"Mr. Hardesty, do you know who I am?"
"You were sent here by the Lord for a reason Donald. Yes, I know very well who you are."
"I'm a civil-rights lawyer. I'm an anti-war activist. I've been arrested three dozen times. You and everything you stand for are anathema to me."
I saw Alex mouth, "Yeah," as he shook a victorious fist.
"I am quite aware of that. But, Jesus has given us one of the smartest and most capable defense attorney's in the country. You saved those Communists in Syracuse. Let's be honest. Leroy can't get a fair trial in Clarkesville. He's from the wrong side of the tracks and the people who run the town have made their fortunes off the blood and sweat of the good, decent people on the south side. You're a defense attorney. Its you duty to insure that Leroy gets a fair trial. You can't leave it to that half-wit Public Defender. If he was worth anything as a lawyer, he wouldn't be a PD in a two-horse town like Clarkesville."
Hardesty's tone had changed completely. He wasn't the half-ignorant country preacher anymore. He was different. He was... he was seducing Donald. And, Alex saw it, as well.
Donald took a breath.
"Let me talk to Simpson."
Alex jumped up. I couldn't stop him. He burst into the study.
"Dad! Are you crazy?! You can't defend him! He killed Stephen! He killed him because he was gay!"
"Alex! Get out," Donald said firmly. "We can discuss this later."
"NO! Dad, think about it! You've fought discrimination your whole life! How can you defend the man who killed Stephen. You saw him! You saw what he did to Stephen!"
"Alex! Stop. Now. You don't understand. We will discuss this later."
I was standing in the doorway, fearfully watching the confrontation between Alex and his father. Donald didn't look angry, but he did seem very serious. However, what really caught my attention was the shocked looked on Hardesty's face as Alex stood there, his hands on his hips. Hardesty's eyes moved up and down Alex and then moved back to me. I saw a slight smile form on his face and then change to frown of concern.
Alex was undeterred. He turned to Hardesty and then declared, "You bastard! You didn't know Stephen! He didn't go after that Burris guy. Stephen wasn't like that at all! He and Jack loved each other!"
"You knew Mr. Kincaid?" Hardesty asked softly, insinuatingly.
"Yes," Alex replied defiantly. "He was my friend."
"And, how do you know Mr. Kincaid and... Jack was it?... were in love?"
"Alex..." Donald said in a warning voice.
"Because he told us."
"He discussed his perversions with you?"
Hardesty raised an eyebrow as Donald stood and ushered Alex and me out the door.
"Dad," Alex began as we entered the foyer.
"Why don't you two go down to Chris's house for a bit, and I will come down later. Trust me, Alex. Go to Chris's house. Now. And, boys, don't repeat anything you heard to Ted. This is vital to both he and I. You cannot repeat anything you heard."
Alex was seething, almost trembling as we stepped outside. He stood for a moment on the porch and then marched off toward the street with me following.
He said nothing as he stormed up the street toward my house. I couldn't imagine was kind of impression he was about to make on my already questioning parents.
"Alex, slow down. Calm down. Just wait and see what your Dad has to say after Hardesty leaves."
"Bastard. Bastard," kept muttering under his breath. I didn't know if he was referring to Hardesty or his father. It was truly frightening to see him like this.
As we approached Tenth Street, I saw Daddy standing in the yard talking with Father Partridge. Father waived at us, but as Alex stormed across the street, he dropped his arm in alarm. Daddy raised his eyebrow and looked at me questioningly.
"Do you know what my father's doing?" he announced demandingly as he marched across the lawn toward my father and his uncle.
"Good heavens, Alex. What's the matter?" Father Partridge asked.
"That Hardesty bastard is in Dad's study right now and he's going to take the case for the guy that Stephen! That's what's the matter!"
"What?" Daddy asked with shock. He looked at me for confirmation. I nodded. Father Partridge clutched his hands together and muttered, "Oh, my goodness."
"Hardesty's claiming Stephen..."
"Don't!" Daddy interrupted, holding his hands up."Don't say anything further. You can't tell me what they are discussing."
Alex seemed finally to come to himself. He looked down at the grass in frustration, still breathing heavily.
"Why?" Father Partridge asked Alex, who simply shook his head in shock.
I looked at Daddy and I could see from the look of certainty on his face that he knew. Daddy wasn't the DA for nothing.
"Because Simpson's a moron and Donald is the best defense attorney in the area."
I was shocked to hear my father speak so candidly. I had never heard him really insult someone before.
"But, he's Donald Partridge!"
"Come, Alex. Let's go speak with your father."
"We can't. Hardesty's still there and Dad said he'd come down here when he was finished."
Daddy stood thinking. I looked at Alex and he seemed drained. Father Partridge put his arm around his nephew.
"This has been so tough for you, my son, hasn't it? Being uprooted, moving to a strange town, witnessing something so horrific. And, now this. Be strong and have faith in your father. I know that Donald and I haven't been the closest of brothers until recently, but your father is a good man. A little overzealous maybe, a bit extreme sometimes, but, he basically tries to be a good man. And, he is your father."
Alex leaned against his uncle and the two hugged as I saw the black Town Car approach on from the north on Union.
"That's Hardesty," I said. We all turned and looked as he passed. He was looking and just before passing out of sight around the corner of the house, he smiled and waived.
"That man is dangerous," my father said softly.
"Yes, Father Partridge added softly. "I'm afraid he is."
Well, how's that for a twist, or did you all see it coming? Please write to me at FreeThinkerCG at yahoo.com. If you are underage, I cannot respond. Please read the disclaimer at the beginning. Thank you so much for reading my story and for the wonderful response. I am so grateful. :-)