"Thank god you guys are all right," Adam said as he opened the passenger door to his car. Adelaide nearly jumped into Silas' arms but Silas slipped into the car immediately afterward and pulled Adelaide up into the space between his legs.
Tara and Chelsea climbed into the back and Adam turned his headlights on and started driving. The group was silent for several minutes until Silas decided to speak up. "We have to trick him. It's the last thing we have left. Pastor Gregory didn't know anything, and our search yielded nothing."
"You've suggested that plan before, at the hospital," Adam said with a shake of his head, "And I thought we agreed it was a bad idea?"
“I’m telling you guys, that they only way we’re going to get him to play his hand is by luring him out,” Silas insisted. “What’s the worst that would happen?”
Chelsea raised her arm in the cast and said, “Well, this is probably the best that would happen, and I prefer to not think about the worst.”
“I agree with Chelsea on this one,” Adam said. “We can’t afford to put you into danger like that. What if he does the same thing to you that he did to Danny? What if he kills you?”
“I realize that I’m playing devil’s advocate here,” Silas replied, “But we don’t actually know that he killed Danny. That was just my theory. If he didn’t kill Danny then we should know from how he reacts. If he just calls me an abomination and tries to hurt me then I’m sure I can get away. That’s not what happened to Danny.”
“But it is what happened to me,” Chelsea interjected. “Maybe that’s an indicator that we’ve been wrong this whole time and my dad is just an a . . .”
“An asshole?” Tara finished for her and Chelsea nodded. “No, I really think that Silas is right about all this, and even though it means putting him in danger I think that we have to risk it to find out.”
Silas smiled at her and said, “Thank you, Tara. Glad that someone sees the sense of my plan. We can work out the details and make sure that we take every precaution possible. Adelaide will watch my back like she always has, won’t you, girl?” he looked down into the dog’s eyes and she barked her agreement. “See, problem solved.”
“I hardly think that a dog bark is enough to guarantee your safety, Drake,” Chelsea said with a roll of her eyes. “This is serious. Do you really think that he won’t be able to hurt you? He’s bigger and stronger than you, and what happens if you don’t get a chance to signal us for help?”
“I don’t think that’s going to be a problem,” Silas replied quickly. “Adelaide can hear my whistle from pretty far away, and so if one of you was holding her nearby, I’m sure she’d come running and lead you straight to me.”
“Yeah, but then we’d be the ones who have to face someone bigger and stronger than us.” Chelsea shook her head and added, “The problem still stands. It’s far too dangerous.”
“My uncle gave me a rifle for my eighteenth birthday and used to take me hunting,” Adam offered. “That would allow us to even the odds, wouldn’t it?”
“Adam!” Chelsea shouted. “I thought you were on my side on this? How could you even suggest that?”
“Well, I’m only suggesting it with a change in the base plan,” Adam said slyly. “I’ll confront Pastor Simms, and then Silas, you and the others can wait and come to help me.”
“That won’t work,” Silas replied. “I’m sorry, Adam, but it has to be me.”
“Why? That doesn’t make any sense, Silas. I’m the one with history with Danny, and I know everything about what happened. It makes sense for me to be the one that confronts him,” Adam said firmly. “I’m also the one that stands the best chance of fighting him off if things take a turn for the worse.”
“Adam, you’re not what he’s into,” Silas argued. “Daniel was a teenager and was about my age, right? This isn’t about confronting him and demanding the truth, he’ll just deny everything. This is about getting him to reveal the truth because he thinks he’s in control. If we actually had some piece of evidence to hang over his head and force a confession then maybe we could confront him openly, but he has to think he has control if he’s going to admit to it otherwise.”
“So what, you’re just going to see yourself like a whore to him?” Tara asked. “I don’t think he’s going to take that. He’d sense something was up. Why would someone approach the most homophobic preacher in town and try and out him? That’s crazy. You better tell me that your plan has something else to back it up or I might have to side with Chelsea now.”
“Thanks, but I think I have a suggestion that will make it work,” Chelsea said with a sigh. “I don’t like it one bit, but what if you approached him and said that you were struggling with your sin and wanted help to overcome it? That would be the perfect excuse to get some one on one time with you, and my dad would take it either way. If he’s innocent of the murder he’d try and help you overcome it. If he’s guilty of the murder, then he’d . . . Silas, you can’t do this.”
“I have to, Chelsea,” Silas said with a grimace. “There’s no other option. I am the only one that can pull this off, and I just have to hope that you’re all ready to back me up.”
“Well, a second question before we get too carried away,” Adam interjected, “What are we going to tell the worried parents who all know that you were missing tonight. I mean, I did tell Ian that we were breaking into the church and that you might have gotten caught. He didn’t ask any other questions, but he said that he’d be over as quickly as he could. Then when I called him again he turned around and drove home. He may be fine without answers for now, but we’re almost at your house, Drake, and we are running out of time to come up with a good excuse that doesn’t involve the truth.”
“I don’t think we can tell him the truth,” Silas replied. “There’s too high of a variable that might go wrong, and I think that he’ll likely try to stop us. If he doesn’t, he’ll at least tell Amy, and Amy will definitely try to stop it from happening.”
“So, do you have a lie ready that’s convincing enough?” Tara asked. “I don’t know if I can pull another story out of my ass that will match the one I told to my parents. Ian, Amy, and Jenny aren’t going to believe that we broke into the church to look at the moon.”
“Point taken,” Silas sighed. “I’ll think of something. How much time do we have?”
“We’re turning onto your street right now,” Adam said as the car turned to the right.
“Shit!” Silas growled. “Okay, well I’m better under pressure. Just let me take the lead, all right?”
“I don’t want it,” Adam replied. “You can have it.”
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
“Does anyone want tea?” Amy asked neutrally as Chelsea and Tara sat down at the dining room table, Silas took up a position against the sink while Adelaide ate at his feet, and Adam stood in the doorway. Ian was standing behind a chair with a white-knuckled grip on the wooden back, though his face remained expressionless, while Jenny sat in her chair watching the three teenagers with a look of sadness in her eyes.
“Um, what kind of tea were you planning on putting on?” Silas asked as Amy walked toward the sink to fill up the kettle. Silas stepped to the side to allow her access, and she smiled up at him though the smile never reached her eyes.
“I was thinking chamomile, something to sooth everyone’s nerves so that we can all get some sleep before the night is completely gone,” Amy said disarmingly.
“Sounds great,” Silas replied. “I’ll have some.”
“I’ll take a cup as well,” Adam said, “if you don’t mind.”
“That sounds great, dear,” Ian added, his voice carrying an edge. “Why don’t you just make enough for all of us and then whoever needs some can have some?”
Amy nodded and filled the kettle before setting it on the stove and putting her back to it. Ian waited until she was done before he addressed the whole group. “Okay, who wants to tell me what you were all thinking? Breaking into a church? That’s the last thing I expected to hear from the three of you.”
“Well, we had a good reason,” Silas replied with a roll of his eyes. “I mean, do you really think we did this as part of some random teenage fun, or a prank?”
“No, we don’t, but that makes it even more suspicious why you didn’t ask us for help if you needed something,” Jenny interjected. “I know that it seems like we’re all out of touch adults, but why didn’t you come to us? We’ve tried our hardest to be helpful to you in every way.”
“The guilt trip,” Silas muttered. “I know where this is going. Jenny, I’ve faced off against the best two people in the world at guilt trips, and let me tell you, you’re no match for my parents.”
“It was my fault, really,” Adam said, and Silas shot him a dangerous look. Adam shut his mouth and looked away, but the damage was already done.
“Your fault?” Amy asked. “I’ve always known you to be a responsible adult, so at least I know the kids were supervised, but I’m really perplexed as to how you would have come up with breaking into a church as a good idea.”
“It wasn’t Adam’s idea,” Silas answered for Adam. “He’s just covering for us because he feels responsible. He was just the nice guy with the car who was willing to give us a ride to and from the church. He didn’t even know what I was planning until we got there.”
“Oh, so this was your idea then?” Ian asked. “This isn’t some carry-over from your days on the streets, is it? Were you stealing something from the church?”
“As a matter of fact, yes,” Silas said as he pulled his lock picks from his pocket and set them on the table. “There was something that Chelsea had left behind there. I told her and Tara that I would get it for her but they insisted on coming along and . . .”
“Stop!” Chelsea shouted. She glared at Silas as he looked at her in surprise and then she shook her head and looked back at Jenny. “I’m sorry, but I can’t let him go on like this. I hate lying, and I’m not about to let it happen again when I can stop it. The reason we were there wasn’t just because of me, and Silas didn’t break in. We had a key.”
“Okay, well at least someone has decided to trust us, even if it is a bit late,” Amy said as she smiled at Chelsea. “I’m waiting.”
“Chelsea, are you sure that we should . . .” Tara began, but then Chelsea turned her glare on Tara instead.
“Yes, I’m sure. We can’t keep this a secret any longer, and if anyone is going to be able to help us it’s these three,” Chelsea said with determination. “Silas, I know that you want to take the fall, you always want to take the fall, but I can’t let you this time. I don’t want to see you get hurt.”
“Someone please just tell us what’s going on,” Ian said with an exasperated growl. “I am sick of dodging around the answer here. Can we just get a little honesty?”
“You sound like dad,” Silas muttered, and Ian shot him a scandalized look. “Whatever. Fine, though I know that you’re all going to put a wrench in everything and stop us from what needs to be done. We think that Pastor Simms killed Daniel Winters.”
Jenny and Amy gasped, and Ian shook his head and looked between them. “I’m sorry, but apparently everyone knows who that is but me. And Silas, please don’t ever call me ‘dad’ again. You know that dad would have grounded you the second you set foot in the house, no questions asked. I have no intention of disciplining you, so please just talk, okay?”
“Whatever,” Silas growled. “Daniel was . . .”
“Daniel was a boy who committed suicide in the church’s tool shed,” Jenny explained, talking over Silas. “He killed himself, Silas. No one has ever thought anything different, and I’m confused as to why you of all people would be digging into that. You didn’t even know him.”
“Yes, but Adam did,” Amy said. “You two were best friends, weren’t you? I seem to remember that you were hanging out a lot together.”
“That’s right,” Adam replied. “He was my boyfriend, actually, and he was incredibly happy. I don’t think I ever saw him upset enough about anything that I would have thought he’d hurt himself. When he died, I became convinced that I had just missed something, but Drake, er, Silas pointed out some things that didn’t seem to add up. I’m now convinced that he was either murdered or someone drove him to suicide very quickly, because the day before he died everything was going well; perfectly, actually.”
“So, what does this have to do with breaking into the church?” Ian asked.
“Well, we think that Pastor Simms is the one who did it, and I really don’t want to go into the details right now, but . . . we were looking for evidence to support that claim,” Silas explained. “We still didn’t find anything concrete, but we’ve uncovered a lot of circumstantial evidence to support the theory. Pastor Simms blackmailed Pastor Gregory to provide him with an alibi, and we now know that Simms and Officer Higgins are having an affair.”
Jenny gasped again and shook her head in disbelief, but Amy turned toward Silas and asked, “But what does that have to do with anything? An affair is a long ways away from murder.”
“Pastor Gregory believed that Simms was having an affair with Officer Higgins at the time of Daniel’s death as well, and Higgins was the one who responded to the 911 call that Gregory made when he discovered Daniel’s body,” Silas explained. “We think she may have covered up any evidence that might have indicated that Simms was guilty.”
“But you’ve taken all these risks and you still don’t know for certain?” Ian asked. “I’m just trying to clarify where we stand on all of this.”
“That’s right,” Chelsea replied, “But Drake thinks he knows how to get the rest of the evidence we need. I don’t want him to do it so that’s why I told you guys.”
“Silas, what were you planning?” Amy asked and the room went silent. Even Adelaide looked up from her food dish to see what was wrong when all eyes turned toward Silas.
“I am going to draw him out,” Silas said with grim determination. “I’m not going to let him get away with murder, and I only see one way of doing that. I have to get him to reveal himself, and I don’t see why this is so hard for everyone to accept.”
“So what, you’re going to be bait?” Ian asked. ‘
“That’s the idea,” Silas replied. “He obviously has a thing for gay teenage boys, and I’m the only one here that fits that description. It has to be me.”
“What if you’re wrong?” Amy asked. “What if Pastor Simms didn’t kill Danny?”
“Then I’ll get out of there after acting my best and no one will be the wiser,” Silas said with a shrug. “I would think you’d be more concerned about what happens if I’m right.”
"We are," Ian said patiently, "But you can't just go around accusing people of murder without having a good reason. It doesn't make for a happy community."
"I don't plan on accusing him of murder, I plan on seducing him," Silas said with a mischievous grin. "I plan on revealing him for what he is, and that means getting him to want me."
"Okay, so what if you're only half right?" Amy asked. "Maybe he's into teenage boys but he's no killer. Maybe he raped Danny but he didn't kill him, and the rape is what made Danny suicidal? So he's only half a creep."
"Then we'll expose him for the half he is and still send him to jail," Silas replied with a shrug. "Definitely not seeing a problem with that logic."
"I don't like this idea at all," Jenny said suddenly as she pressed up from the table and walked toward the cupboards hanging over the counter and opened them, withdrawing several teacups. The water began whistling a second later, and Amy reached for the kettle and started filling up the cups that Jenny was laying out.
"How did you know the water was ready?" Adam asked.
"When you've been doing something for a really long time, you often develop a sense for it," Jenny explained with a forced smile. "I guess you could say that my reservations about this discussion are exactly the same way. I don't like this kind of talk because for nearly two decades I've been trying to live peacefully. The subject of murder isn't one that sits well with me; I avoid watching crime shows on television, even. I like to think that this world can be made better simply by learning to love each other and working together."
"But that's why this is so important, Jenny," Silas protested.
"I know, dear," Jenny replied with a sad sigh. "I understand exactly how important this is to you, and that you're doing it out of a need to protect the people in your life. We need our protectors as much as we need our peacemakers, and maybe you're right, but would you be willing to consider an alternative?"
"I'm open, but not to making promises," Silas replied.
"I know a man who reminds me of you," Jenny continued. "He's a protector, like you, and he really just wants to create a world where people can be safe. I met him through First Presbyterian, but his title is sheriff. Hugh Donaldson is one of the finest men I've ever known. I'd like you to try and talk to him first, before you decide to risk yourself on this. I think you'll find he'll be willing to help you."
"That sounds like a good plan," Ian said with a nod. "I think we should go to the authorities on this. What do you say, Silas?"
Silas looked between all of his friends who were waiting on him to answer. He couldn't tell what they wanted him to say, and he knew that they trusted him to make the decision for them; to lead them the rest of the way toward their end goal. He sighed and then nodded slowly, "Okay, give me his number and I'll call him tomorrow."
Jenny's eyes lit up as she set a cup of tea in front of Silas and she said, "Good. I'll feel a lot better about this if you do. I don't know how you found your way here, Silas, but I know I speak for everyone in this room when I say that I'm glad you did. We don't want you to risk yourself unnecessarily, not when there's another option. I'll write it down on a card for you in a minute."
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
The morning was crisp and clean. There were reports of a storm that was going to hit the mountains to the north, but it was unlikely they would see any of it, and blue skies were everywhere. Silas stretched his arm toward Adelaide who lay at the foot of his bed and scratched her behind the ears. She lifted her head and nuzzled his hand, and he smiled back at her.
He had thought about what Jenny had said, about there being another option, but he just didn't see it. He knew exactly what had to be done, and there was nothing that could change that. No authority had ever been able to help him in the past, and even if the man was a personal friend of Jenny's he didn't want to involve the police, at least not until they had something concrete.
He stretched, feeling the cool morning air against his naked chest and loving the feeling. He slept with the window open in order to bring back some of the feeling of sleeping in the wild, but he loved the way his body felt after sleeping in a bed again. It had taken a few nights to get used to, but now it was something he wasn't sure he could give up again. This was home, and he would never leave it without a really good reason.
Though that didn't mean he didn't still long for the open road. The phone on the desk seemed to beckon to him, and he considered calling Brady back. There had been numerous missed calls when he had checked the phone before going to bed, but Silas hadn’t had the energy to call Brady and explain what was going on. He had a feeling that if he did then he'd have one more person telling him not to go through with it, and that was the last thing he wanted or needed.
His feet hit the floor and Adelaide jumped off the bed, expecting to go with him out into the hallway, but he had something else to do before he left the room. He began walking to the desk and the computer that he had barely used since Ian and Amy had given it to him when he realized that his bladder was full. With a sigh he opened the door and walked to the bathroom with Adelaide on his heels and then returned a short time later feeling even more refreshed.
The computer chair was comfortable as he sat down and accessed his thoughts while opening the laptop. He knew what he needed to say, but how to say it was a completely different matter. There were things in his heart that were threatening to consume him if he didn't manage to get them out, but he wasn't sure if the words would come. There was only one way to find out, and he opened up a document and began to type. It had been nearly two years since he had typed anything of any great length, and at first his fingers were clumsy and made many mistakes, but after nearly an hour of typing he was sure that he had said everything he intended to say and he quickly surveyed his work.
Ian and Amy,
This letter is meant for you before anyone, because of what you've done for me. I don't think that I can ever express my thanks enough for what you've given me, and the love that you've shown me. I know that I suck at expressing my appreciation sometimes, but please know that it's because I learned as a kid to bottle up my emotions. They told me that boys don't cry, that they have to be strong. Well, I always tried to be strong, but the truth is that I cried in secret, often. I cried when my parents told me Ian had left the family. I cried when my sister told me that she couldn't talk to him anymore. I cried when I realized that I was next, and that it would only be a matter of time before they found out my terrible secret, that I was gay and that they'd never want me again.
I've always hated saying goodbye, and I hope that this isn't one of those times. My instincts tell me it won't be; I've been through much worse than what I'm going to do today, but just in case I wanted you to know how I feel. I appreciate everything that you've done for me. I never thought I would find a home again, and somehow fate led me right to both of you. You've really given me another chance at life, and I know you think that by doing what I plan I'm risking losing it all, but I'm not. Trust me, I know how this is going to work out.
But just in case you're right, thank you. I love you both. I never thought I'd have room in my life for loving people again, but thanks at least in part to you, I have that opportunity.
I know you're going to be right there along with me, so maybe this is pointless to write, but I need you to see it. If I don't make it through this, I want you to know that you're stronger than you think you are, and you can survive anything if you put your mind to it. I think you're one of the best people I've ever known, and you're definitely worth fighting for. Keep on living, Chelsea. You deserve it.
You're as invested in this as I am, but I think that if anyone is going to make it through it's going to me you. You've shown me your strength of will multiple times. I mean, who could resist my hotness when it's practically being thrown at them? I'm kidding, of course, but not about the will. I know that you've got the strength to carry everyone through this if I don't make it. Be there for them and take care of them the way that you took care of me. But don't forget to take care of yourself.
And find a boyfriend, god dammit! Stop making yourself look so available!
Keep on rocking! Chelsea needs you to keep that spirit up. Your passion drew me to you, and I hope that I get to see where you channel it in the years to come. You care so much about everyone, and I know that sometimes that makes the world just seem so unfair. Well, with people like you in it, that can change for the better. Keep fighting for what you believe in.
I'm sorry that I couldn't do things the way that you wanted. I know that you trust these people that I've never met, but it's hard for me to trust the people I already know. I hope you'll understand that, and I hope I'll also be able to see you on the other side of this to help you see that everything is all right. You won't see this before then, of course. You'll only see this if everything goes wrong, but I just want you to know that I appreciate you looking out for me, and for Chelsea, and everyone in your life. You're a wonderful person, and I'm happy to know you.
I haven't called you back because I need to focus, and you have the opposite effect on me. Maybe that's cruel to you, I don't know, but it doesn't change the fact that right now, if I want to succeed, I can't be thinking about the life I may never get to live with you in it. I can't afford to think about the late night talks about the way a performance settles into your mind, or the way that people fail at working relationships out because they forget to talk to each other. I know that if you end up reading this, you're going to wonder why I did what I did, though really there shouldn't be any need.
Just remember what you told me once, about that time that the band really came together and played like they were one. Just think about that, and know that I've finally navigated my way to a place that feels like that. I feel at home here, but the music is playing on, and I have to keep playing with them. I have to find the end of the song so that we can all come together and play like we're one.
So that we can all find the peace at the end of the music, and know that we did the right thing.
You taught me more than I imagined possible in the short time we were together, and I hope you continued to spread the message that the music of your life teaches. Don't forget me, Brady. I'll try and find my way back to you, but if I don't.
If I don't, just remember that I went out doing what I believed in.
Silas left his computer open and then started searching for the clothes he would wear to seduce Pastor Simms. He wanted to appear as a conservative Christian boy who was honestly seeking answers from the pastor and that meant dressing nicely, but at the same time he knew that if he dressed too nicely then he'd be off of his game. He disregarded the button-up shirt that he had bought when he was out with Amy and selected instead a dark polo. He made sure to wear the nicest pair of jeans he had as well, and by the time that he was done dressing he glanced over at the computer screen to see that the display had darkened, indicating that it was about to go to sleep.
"Well, Addy," Silas said as he looked down at Adelaide, "I think we're about ready to do this, though I realize now that I forgot to shower. How could you let me forget that?" He laughed and scratched her behind the ears and then started toward the bathroom, though not before reaching for his phone and sending a quick message to Adam, Chelsea, and Tara asking them to meet him at the coffee shop after school.
As he undressed for his shower he took a long look in the mirror and was greeted by a face that seemed foreign to him. It had been a long time since he had seen that level of happiness and sense of purpose in his eyes, and it finally seemed natural to smile. The realization of what he was about to do nearly wiped that smile from his face, but then it bounced back with renewed strength. He was about to face a man that he knew in his gut to be a murderer, but he knew somehow that he was going to succeed. His entire life had prepared him for this moment, and he would not fail.
Author's Note: Why is Silas saying goodbye? What is he going to do?
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