Kelly looked up at the detective looming over him.
I think its about time you came down to the station to answer some questions, Detective Conner growled.
How many times do I have to tell you? I just dont remember anything about that night!
The desperation with which Kelly spoke was crystal clear to everyone.
.Really? Conner sneered. And you expect me to believe you, when you returned to the scene of the crime?
If youre that sure about him, why arent you dragging him off now? Blake snapped. Youre bluffing!
Conner stared down at Blake, forcing him to slouch back into his seat. The detective turned back to Kelly.
The only thing thats stopping me is theres one piece of the puzzle thats not fitting. Once I work out where Ushers truck comes into the picture, Ill be having you charged with murder, Kelly Yates.
Ive got the rest figured out. You and Kyle Usher had an argument, and you went off somewhere to finish it. As you drove along, you pushed him out of the car, but lost control yourself and crashed.
.All I need is whoever was driving the truck to say they were trying to stop you from killing Usher, and youre gone. Im even happy to promise that they wont be charged for leaving the scene of an accident, if they come forward.
Kelly sat frozen as he thought about what hed just been told.
Now, how about getting out of that seat and coming back to the station to answer some questions? Or do I need to get someone to drag you out of here?
* * *
Jessie was frustrated. This trip home had been a disaster from the start. Just before they got into the car to drive to Springfield, her boyfriend had received a phone call from work. They were very apologetic, but they needed Ryan back in the office. They offered him a bonus to postpone his leave and work instead.
The discussion on that had been short. Money was going to get tight in the future and the extra money would come in handy. Jessie didnt have the option to shift her leave, especially after the problems shed caused by taking leave without notice at the time of Kellys accident, so she headed home by herself instead of as a couple.
To top it off, when she got to her parents place, her cellphone rang. Her boss told her that he needed a particular report by that Monday. He knew she was away, but he said it wouldnt take her long and then she could email it to him....
Growling to herself, Jessie typed away at her laptop. Stacey from work had the right idea: when going on vacation, make sure you go somewhere that you cant be tracked down. Otherwise, the boss will find you and ask you for just one small thing, as if you had nothing better to do with your time.
The trip had been all planned out. Ryan and she would arrive to wish her mom an early Mothers Day, and then pass on the happy news that next year, shed be celebrating it, too! Instead, she arrives home by herself, gets work to do from her boss that she cant afford to refuse, and find that Kellys still in trouble with the police. Hed been questioned for hours before he was released. The cops were just waiting on one more piece of evidence before they charged him with murder.
She still hadnt found a chance to tell her parents that shes pregnant. She knows her dad will ask about wedding plans, but she and Ryan are more worried about the financial costs of the baby. Being an accountant, Jessie was very much aware of the strain a new baby would be placing on their resources, and the cost of a wedding and honeymoon were out of the question, at least for now.
Jessie? Can I have a word?
Jessie looked up to see Kelly hovering uncertainly in the doorway. She seized the excuse for a break with both hands.
.Sure, Kel. Come in and take a seat.
Kelly stepped in, closed the door, and sat on the edge of the bed. He was nervous, but Jessie could appreciate why. Being investigated for murder when you cant remember anything that happened would upset anyone.
I need to remember something, Jes, and Im hoping Ive told you, he started hesitantly.
.What is it? Ill help, if I can.
Kelly looked away, as if he was uncomfortable making eye contact.
.Did I ever tell you if any of my friends were gay?
Jessie stiffened and then forced herself to relax. She was glad that Kelly hadnt seen her involuntary response to the question.
.No, you never did. Why do you ask?
He shook his head sadly and looked up at her.
Ive been having weird dreams, and Ive found strange stuff on my computer. For a while I thought Id turned gay, but I figured out it must be someone I know. The other thing is that Im sure they knew Kyle Usher, so I really want to talk to them to try to find out what happened that night.
She pursed her lips and thought hard and fast.
Why do you think they knew Kyle?
Ive a few dreams where I keep telling someone to stay away from Kyle, that hes bad for them. I just cant work out who Im talking to. I know Kyle was gay because he was regular at a gay bar in town, so whoever it was must be gay, too. They mustve told me, or I found out, but I cant freaking remember anymore!
Jessie could hear the desperation in his voice and almost said something, but snapped her mouth closed at the last second. It wasnt her place to tell him, at least not yet.
Sorry, Kel. I cant help you.
Kelly sighed and stood up woodenly. Thanks anyway, Jes. Oh, and welcome home.
He sounded so despondent, that Jessie stood up and pulled him into a hug.
Take care, Kel. Itll all work out in the end.
He held on for several seconds before letting go. Jessie sensed he needed the physical comfort, but was too much of a man to ask for it. When he ran a hand across his eyes, she was sure.
Thanks, Jes, he said appreciatively, before opening the door and stepping out.
Jessie stood there for a moment, staring at the now empty doorway. She glanced down at her laptop and made a decision. Family was more important than work. If she had to, shed tell her boss that her laptop crashed on her and she was so sorry, but she was in the middle of nowhere and couldnt get it fixed until it was too late.
Stepping out, she walked down the hallway and rapped on a door. When there was no answer, she opened it and peered inside. Todds room was empty.
Jessie growled a few choice words under her breath before moving on, looking for someone who could tell her where Todd could be found.
Mom? Do you know where Todd is?
He went out not too long ago. He said hed be back in a couple of hours.
Thanks. Ill catch up with him later, then, Jessie replied, turning away. Shed have to get back to her report. She couldnt do anything about Todd until he came home.
* * *
Todd knocked on the door. This was the first time hed been to Steve and Marks place. Previously, theyd met at coffee shops or Alleys, or at Kyles apartment if they wanted privacy. None of those places were appropriate anymore.
He swallowed hard to try to remove the lump from his throat at the thought that hed never be going back to Kyles apartment again.
Hi, dude. Come on in, Mark said, when he opened the door.
Todd stepped in and looked around. The entrance opened up directly into a living area. Steve was just getting to his feet. Hi, Todd. Welcome to our humble abode.
Todd nodded, but nerves kept him from saying anything. Steves characteristic scowl was softened, but Todd still felt uneasy with the big construction worker.
Are you all right? Mark asked, concerned.
Im okay, Todd said, after swallowing again. Im sorry to annoy you, but I need to talk to you.
Steve waved a hand towards an empty chair. Have a seat, Todd. Any friend of Kyles is always welcome here.
.A sense of sadness and regret hung between them. Both were missing Kyle deeply.
Todd took the offered chair, while Steve and Mark sat together on the couch opposite.
You said you needed to talk to us about something, Mark prompted gently, when the silence started to stretch.
Todd nodded. Kellys in more trouble with the cops, and Im hoping you can help me.
Steve scowled. I know hes your brother, but its because of him that Kyles dead. Im sorry, Todd, but he can rot as far as Im concerned.
Todd rocked back at the venom Steve had spoken with. Hed been expecting polite sympathy, at the least, and Steves hatred had come out of left field.
Excuse us, Todd, Mark said quickly. Steve, can I see you in the kitchen?
Todd watched as Mark and Steve disappeared. His body started to shake as he wondered if this was a good idea or not. He heard angry voices coming from the other room, but couldnt make out any words.
While he waited, he looked around. He guessed the photos of surfers on the wall were Marks, taken back home in California. Unable to sit still, he got up and started looking at them closely. When he started to think that one of the guys looked particularly hot, memories of Kyle hit him hard and he had to look away. He wasnt ready to think of anyone else; he was still getting over losing his boyfriend.
Sorry, Todd, Mark apologized. Kyle was a really close friend of Steves and hes still very upset about the whole thing. He didnt really mean it about your brother.
Todd just stood there, without turning around. Kelly is my brother, but Kyle was my boyfriend, he whispered, as he hung his head and let yet another flood of tears loose. He knew he was somewhere safe and didnt try to suppress them.
When he felt Marks hand on his shoulder, he spun around and buried his face into Marks shoulder. He lost all control of his emotions and just hung onto the blonde surfer as if his life depended on it.
Finally, Todd pulled himself out of Marks arms and looked up at his comforter. Thanks, he said quietly.
Mark smiled, but it didnt make it to his eyes, which were still filled with sadness. He gestured back to the couch, where two cups of coffee had appeared.
Todd looked back at Mark in surprise.
Steve might be upset, but he knows you are, too. He said hell stay out of it and let you speak with me in private.
Thanks, and thank him for me, if I dont see him before I go, Todd said with genuine gratitude.
When they were seated, side-by-side, Mark asked, Now what did you want to talk about?
Todd sighed deeply and took a sip of coffee before he started.
The cops have told Kelly that he was seen arguing with Kyle and two friends at Alleys. Im hoping you might know who the two friends were. Kelly doesnt remember it and the cops are accusing him of murder. He needs to find out what they were arguing about, he said, looking down at the coffee table.
When there was no immediate response, he looked up to see Mark frowning sadly.
Im sorry, dude. We really havent had a chance to say anything previously. Remember, you can call us, but we cant call you.
The two friends were Steve and me.
Todds eyes opened wide in surprise, and then he grinned. So you can tell me what really happened!
Mark looked away.
The cops have already questioned us. We told them that Kelly was arguing with Kyle about supplying weed to one of his college mates. Kelly wanted Kyle to stay away from him. The cops asked us who it was, but we said that the two of them didnt mention any names. We also told them that we didnt know anything about it.
Todd stared. But Kyle wasnt doing that anymore! He stopped doing it months ago. He told me he did it for me!
Mark nodded, still looking down at the floor.
We know. We lied to the cops, Todd. We did it to protect you. We werent prepared to out you to the cops and probably your whole family.
He looked up with moist eyes.
Kelly was really warning Kyle to stay away from you, dude. He wanted to break you and Kyle up.
.Todd was stunned. But Kelly didnt know about us.
Mark shook his head. You didnt think so, but he did. He threatened to go to the cops, if he had to, and get Kyle charged with rape, if Kyle didnt stop seeing you. I can remember him calling Kyle the faggot that turned his brother gay. Im sorry, Todd, I really am. Thats the other reason Steve doesnt like your brother.
Todd looked away, eyes brimming with more tears. He could imagine Kelly saying that. His brother had been having a hard time accepting that Todds gay. Hed kept saying it was a phase, and that itll pass.
Kel told me of a dream he had; how he was telling someone that Kyle was bad for them. You must be right. Id been thinking hed just been confused, but Kelly knew, somehow.
What happened next? he asked dully.
We dont know. Kelly and Kyle left, still arguing, and we went home. We heard about the accident the next day, Mark replied
Todd just stared at the floor.
Im sorry, Todd, but Kyle was a really good friend to me, Steve said quietly from the kitchen doorway. Weve been working together in construction for a while now, and I still cant believe hes gone.
Todd looked up and noticed that Steve was distressed. He was hurting, too.
You and me both, Steve. You and me both.
* * *
Jessie opened Todds door.
Todd was lying on his bed, headphones on, listening to his discman. His eyes were closed. It looked as if hed been crying.
She stepped into the room and closed the door quietly behind her. Silently, she picked up the chair by Todds desk and placed it next to his bed. Sitting down, she contemplated her youngest brother.
Taking a deep breath, and hoping she was doing the right thing, she reached over and switched off the discman.
Todds eyes snapped open and his whole body jerked when he saw his sister looking down at him. He slipped the headphones off his head.
Hi, Tadpole, she said gently. Im sorry, but there are some things we need to talk about.
Hi, sis, he sniffed, struggling into an upright position on the bed. Whats up?
Ive been talking with Kel about his problems. Hes mentioned some things I want to discuss with you, Jessie said, trying to keep her tone calm and quiet. This wasnt going to be easy.
Todd looked at her and waited silently for her to continue.
Ive been pretty sure for quite a while now, Tadpole, but Ive been waiting for you to say something. Because of Kelly, I cant wait anymore. Hes told me that hes sure that someone he knows was seeing Kyle Usher.
She paused when Todd stiffened. It was the final proof she needed.
.Was Kyle your boyfriend, Todd? she asked gently.
.Todds head jerked stiffly up and down. A new stream of tears threatened to fall.
Oh, Todd, Jessie cried, as she suddenly realized the implications. Shed been concentrating so much on Kellys problems that Todds pain had been missed.
She reached over and gathered him into her arms. He resisted for a moment and then collapsed against her. She held him tight and let him cry. When he seemed to be calming down, she let him go.
I think you need to tell Kel she started.
.NO! Todd interrupted, panic on his face.
Why not? Jessie asked, trying to keep calm and quiet.
Ive already told him once, and I dont want to go through that again. It was horrible! He didnt say anything to anyone else, but he kept telling me that I wasnt really gay; that it was just a phase I was going through, Todd said without drawing breath, as if the floodgates had been let loose. He was starting to get better near the end, and almost seemed to accept it when I told him I had a boyfriend, but now hes back to where he was. He doesnt remember any of it and I dont want to go through it again. Please, dont say anything to him!
Okay, Tadpole, Jessie said soothingly, while trying to piece together the jumble that Todd had thrown at her. Youll need to tell him eventually, but I wont say anything.
I know, he whispered, but just not yet. I cant do it, not on top of everything else. Once he knows Im gay, hell work out that he killed my boyfriend. Thats when everything really hits the fan.
* * *
Kelly sat down at the table in the school cafeteria.
Thanks, guys, for coming. Ive found out something that might help me figure out what really happened that night, but I need your help.
No problem. What is it? Marcus asked.
Can I check something first? I had a dream last night and I want to see if my memory is starting to return, Kelly said, leaning forward eagerly.
Sure, go ahead.
Did we all go to the homecoming game this season? Kelly asked. I can remember sitting with you guys near the middle of the stands.
Yeah, we did, Blake answered, flicking a smile to the others around the table.
And Springfield won the game in the last minute?
The others nodded their heads, grins spreading across all their faces at the evidence that Kelly was, slowly, regaining his memory.
And McArthur scored the winning touchdown! Kelly finished triumphantly.
Er no, Marcus replied apologetically. He didnt play that game; he was out injured.
Aaarggghhhh! Kelly cried, raising clenched fists to the sky. Why cant I remember things properly? Ive got bits and pieces, but theyre all mixed up!
His friends were silent for several seconds.
You said you found something out? Hiro prompted, changing the topic.
Visibly calming himself down, Kelly reached down and pulled some papers from his bag. He then distributed them to Blake, Marcus and Hiro, putting one copy in the middle of the table.
I think I knew Kyle from before the night of the accident, but I cant remember anything about him. Well, last night I did a search on my computer for any files that had kyle in the name. I found one called kyle-mark-steve, but I couldnt make sense of it. When I realized it was some sort of temporary file left over by the photo editing software we have, I tried renaming it. It turned out to be a bitmap file.
.Kelly indicated the papers hed handed out.
Thats what was in the file.
They all looked at their copies. It showed a picture of three grinning guys on a couch. The background was too dark to make out where it was taken, but the way the three of them were clowning around, they were clearly good friends.
From the photo that the detective showed me, the one on the right must be Kyle, Kelly stated.
So thats what he looked like, Blake mused. Its been strange, having a name and no face to put it to.
I could be wrong, Kelly admitted. Detective Conner showed me a police mugshot, trying to get me to admit I knew the guy.
A mugshot? Hiro asked quickly, straightening suddenly. Do you know why?
Apparently, Kyle had a record, but only for minor stuff. The detective left it vague, but I got the impression it was for petty theft and weed.
Where do you think this photo came from? Blake asked, taping the paper in the middle of the table.
Kelly shrugged. No idea. Maybe someone sent it to me. Maybe its a piece of a large photo that I took of them secretly, and I was using the editor to crop it down to just these three. I just dont freakin remember! All I know is I have something, and thats a start.
Thats all very well, but it doesnt seem to help much, Marcus stated.
Yes it does, Hiro interrupted. The detective said that Kelly argued with Kyle and two friends! It may not be these two, but if we find them, they may know the others. Then we can find out what really happened that night.
Kelly nodded. Thats what I was thinking, too.
He reached over and tapped the blonde guy in the middle of the picture.
.Im positive Ive seen this guy around at school. I cant remember where, but Im sure of it. If we find one, we may find the others.
Do you have any ideas on how to find one guy out of the thousands that go to Springfield U? Marcus asked, slightly sarcastically.
.Thats why I need your help, Kelly stated simply.
Its a guess, but can we assume hes gay? Hiro queried, looking around the table. He might not be, but its worth checking out.
Do you mean hanging out at Alleys, just waiting for him to show up? Blake asked. I dont know if I could stand that for too long.
Well, thats one possibility, but I had another, Hiro replied. I think it may be time to join the schools GSA.
GSA? Kelly asked.
The Gay/Straight Alliance.
There were general nods of the head from everyone. They had a plan, even if it wasnt much of one.
I vote that Marcus goes as the Gay, Hiro suggested mischievously. All those in favor?
Editors Note: If you would like to contact the author of this chapter, you may use this email address, CollisionAuthors@Deweywriter.com <mailto:CollisionAuthors@Deweywriter.com> . Please include the authors name. Thank you.