Chapter 16 – Joy and Duty
by Ryan Keith
When Steve walked out of the chief’s office, his face was flushed. It had been a while since he’d worn the uniform, and he knew that the people looking at him had heard the chief. He’d nearly thrown the book at Steve before telling him to get out.
Mark approached with a smirk. “I hope to God you know what you’re doing…”
Steve didn’t answer his boyfriend and partner, but gave him a look that suggested he lower his voice. With ease, the two officers walked briskly through the Springfield headquarters, making stops to greet colleagues.
“Hard to believe a tight-ass cop like you would bend the rules for friends,” Mark said as they walked outside.
Steve remained silent.
“So?” Mark questioned, “What story did you tell our chief?”
“I told him I was talking to Kyle, and the moment I mentioned that one of the guys watching Kelly was missing, he jumped on me, knocked me out, and stole my car.”
“I’m impressed you let Kyle have his way. What happened to not bending the rules?”
“You try talking some sense into that idiot. That punk doesn’t know his place. But can you blame him for being so nervous?
“Anyway, when I suggested adding another guy to watch Kelly, the chief threw a fit about how we don’t have enough manpower. That’s bullshit! It’s a two-man job, and we still haven’t found Andrews.”
The two walked in silence as they remembered the other officer assigned to watch over Kelly. A couple of weeks earlier, Andrews had disappeared without a trace.
“At least, by tomorrow this operation will finally be closed. We can get back to regular, boring field jobs,” Steve said.
“I know what you mean about boring. I gotta say, seeing you coming home in your construction clothes has been pretty hot,” Mark said as he grinned at his partner.
“Of all the jobs, why manual labour?”
“Kyle didn’t exactly have a university degree, Steve. How would that work?” Mark laughed. “And it was to keep you fit; you’re growing old, ‘Mr.Perkins’”
“God, I hate that name. Why did I get the gay name?”
Mark gave Steve a look.
“All right, my bad, but really, we need a vacation after this. Screw the chief,” Steve joked as they approached Mark’s car.
“Screw the chief? Really? A new fantasy?” Mark grinned as the settled into the car. “Something you wanna tell me, lover?”
Steve leaned in and gave Mark a peck on the lips. “I love you.”
Mark smiled and shook his head at his boyfriend’s cheesiness. “What do we do now?”
“We rest, I guess. Chief wants us at a briefing this afternoon. We’re on standby for now. Tomorrow, this all goes down. But…“
“You getting a funny feeling like I am?” Mark asked Steve.
“It’s a given we have a bad cop in this operation, but I don’t know if it’s our department or another division.”
“Think Andrews is dead?” Mark asked.
“Don’t know, man. Chief won’t tell me who the other guy assigned to watch Kelly is. I believe he thinks I’m a liability. He might even suspect you, because you’re with me.”
“I hope Todd’s doing all right,” Mark said.
Steve watched Mark grip the steering wheel. He understood that his boyfriend was upset. Although they had known Todd for a short while, they had grown fond of him and thought of the younger boy as a close friend. Although Mark and Steve knew what had really happened on the night of Kelly and Kyle’s accident, they couldn’t share any of that information with Todd.
“Alex Cartel.” Saying the name made Mark feel like heaving. “What pisses me off is that we had a perfect opportunity to nail his ass, but he’s walking around this city a free man. We saw him get in Kyle’s truck, and we know he left the scene after the accident, but we’re letting him…”
“If we take him down now, the worst he can get is a few years, Mark, but if we take him down with the warehouses, he’ll get put away for good, with the rest of his clowns. And, we rid the streets of his influence.”
“So, you’re saying that for the greater good, I should just bear with it… Kelly is running around trying to be a detective, the real detective thinks we’re criminals, Kyle is trying to be a hero, and Todd is about to shatter.”
Steve knew that everything Mark had said was true. If Alex Cartel and his bunch hadn’t been able to stay one jump ahead, they would already have them behind bars.
“The last few warehouses that were busted showed nothing but traces of activity. It’s like they’re mocking us every time we’re a moment too late. Someone is tipping them off, and the chief is even starting to think it’s us.”
Steve knew better than to interrupt his partner when he was into one of his rare tantrums, but he hoped Mark would move on.
“But, I guess opportunities like Kyle don’t come out of thin air. Chief wants to be sure, this time. If we take out Cartel too soon, the whole six months of planning will go to shit.” Mark sighed and then continued, “I just hope Kyle doesn’t do anything stupid.”
“After Kyle and Kelly’s accident, the dealers disappeared. Cartel probably wanted to make sure nothing connected back to him,” Steve said. “But now they’re active again and we have a lead. The chief is sure of it this time.”
“Yeah, well, next time they should find a dumb cop to snoop around, instead of one like Conner. That man must eat nails for breakfast to be that tough. He freakin’ makes me nervous,” Mark said.
“Stupid chief didn’t even tell me about him. I heard most of it from the girl in inventory. It’s a good cover in case there’s a bad cop – keep him on his toes – but he could’ve at least told us.”
Mark sighed. “I think this undercover shit has been cool, but they keep us in the dark, don’t they?”
“You’re telling me. I had to endure a gay bar all this time. They don’t even have imported beer! And if I hear another show tune or Cher song, I’m going to freak.”
“Quit lying to yourself. I saw how you were tapping your foot to her songs.” Mark grinned. “Warn me before you come out of the drag closet.”
If Mark hadn’t been driving, Steve would have punched his arm. Instead, he silently plotted what to do to him the next time they were alone.
Kelly wasn’t sure what was happening. Todd had frozen up and a moment later he was on the floor, sobbing.
“Come on, Todd,” Kelly said, pulling Todd’s arm over his shoulder. “Stay with me, bro. Come on, breathe!”
No words escaped Todd’s mouth as tears traced his face. Kelly helped him to the sofa and heard him whisper something.
“What was that about…on the radio?” Kelly asked.
“S-some kind of sick joke…” Todd whispered through his clenched teeth before yielding to another wave of tears.
Kelly pulled Todd into his arms. “Toad, it’s okay. Let it out. I’m here for you. I’ll always be here for you…”
Kelly’s words seemed to make Todd cry even harder. To Kelly, his brother was still a kid. Just a kid. His kid brother.
“It must have been hard, holding all this in,” Kelly whispered gently.
The things that had resurfaced in the past few days were overwhelming to Kelly: Todd’s connection to Kyle, Todd being gay, and his own previous reaction to that news.
With each question answered, more questions seemed to appear: why had he confronted Kyle that night, why had Kyle chased him, and what were detective Conner’s true intentions? Why had Kyle’s friends suddenly abandoned their apartment?
Todd felt Kelly’s grip around his body tighten. It had been a few minutes since either of them had spoken, and Todd was starting to feel better.
“Is everything my fault? I’m starting to wonder if the accident was because of me. I can’t help but feel responsible for…” Kelly stopped. “Did I take away your happiness?”
Todd remained motionless.
“When you freaked out on me, I felt betrayed. And then, when I found out Kyle was dead, I nearly broke. But when I found out you weren’t waking up, I prayed to God with all my might. I prayed for Him to keep you here. If I lost both of you, I…“
Tears overcame Todd again.
“Shh,” Kelly whispered. “I understand. It’s okay, Todd. I’m not going anywhere. From now on, you can tell me anything. I can’t say I’ll understand what you’re going through, but I’ll try.”
Todd pulled away from his brother. “Thanks, Kel… I think I wanna rest for a bit. It’s been a long day.”
There was nothing else Kelly could say to his brother. He knew that Todd understood that no subject would be off limits from then on. He nodded as Todd tried to give him a reassuring smile. As he watched his brother walk away, Kelly wondered when things would start getting better for both of them.
“Oh my God! Look at your face in this one!” Todd laughed, lying on the bed.
Kyle was kissing Todd’s shoulder while the younger boy browsed through the photos on a digital camera. “Hmm, where?”
Todd shoved the camera at Kyle’s face. “Your face looks so sour here.”
“You know – defiant, intimidating. I was trying to use words that you’d understand.”
Kyle bit Todd’s shoulder. “I was trying to look hot for you.”
“You call that hot? Looks like you took a shot of Sourpuss.”
“That shit is nasty!” Kyle winced. “If Mark gives anything else that’s not beer from now on, I’m not going to drink it.”
“You really want a beer belly?”
“Well, seeing how you were eyeing those men at Alley’s, I was starting to wonder if you do,” Kyle joked.
“Is that supposed to be an attempt at a joke?” Todd fired back. “Man, you’re horrible at this.”
“Well, you were looking,” Kyle teased.
“Because a guy there happened to be a teacher at my high school. I don’t think he saw me, though,” Todd answered, and then went back to clicking through the photos.
“Why didn’t you say something about the teacher? We could have left anytime you wanted.”
“You guys were having so much fun… And besides, I wouldn’t have been able to take this photo if we’d left,” Todd said, showing an image to Kyle.
“Hey, that’s good!” Kyle said, taking the camera. “I look pretty hot, don’t I?”
“Get over yourself.”
“Someone’s mouthy tonight,” Kyle said, putting the camera down and wrapping his arms around Todd.
“That’s because someone promised me ice cream today and I didn’t get any!”
“You really are a kid.”
“That really is low, though. Luring me with ice cream and then wrapping your arms around me so I can’t get away.”
Kyle laughed, burying his face into Todd’s neck. “You are too cute, Todd… I love you.”
Todd stared at the ceiling without replying.
“I said I love you…”
“I know, Kyle…”
Again, silence answered Kyle. Releasing Todd, he sat up. “Oh… I see”
“Don’t do this,” Todd said, turning to Kyle.
“What am I doing, Todd? I’m obviously clueless.”
“It’s just that, like, I don’t know whether you mean ‘love’ love, or the kind you say spontaneously, or…”
“I meant the first love, Todd. The one between two people who really care about each other,” Kyle answered, putting a palm to his forehead.
Todd sighed. “That’s what confuses me.”
“I don’t understand you sometimes,” Kyle said, reaching for his shirt.
Todd watched him and tried his best to not seem afraid. He knew he had to confront Kyle. If he didn’t, they’d never get past a certain boundary. “There’s a side of you that I know nothing about. It’s like you’re hiding a part of yourself from me. I can feel it…and that’s why I can’t trust that what you say is what you believe.”
Kyle was beginning to understand what Mark meant when he said he wouldn’t be able to fool Todd. Todd was a kid, but he was a damn smart kid. “Yes, I am hiding things from you… But Todd, you need to understand it has nothing to do with you. It’s just some things I need to keep to myself for now. I hope one day you’ll understand, but when I say it, I mean it. I really love you…”
As deep as Kyle’s words were, Todd didn’t know whether he felt the same way.
Kyle placed his hand over Todd’s. “You don’t have to say it now, if you don’t believe it. Just let it be enough that you know that I do. I’ll wait…”
Todd awoke slowly from his dream. He opened his eyes and stared at the familiar ceiling. Placing his palms to his forehead, he tried to will his mind back into sleep, but he couldn’t. He sat up and pulled his knees towards his body, then sat in solitude.
“It’s too late now, isn’t it? You’re gone… I haven’t told you any of my true feelings. And now it’s too late…”
Todd didn’t want to cry, but the tears wouldn’t stop.
“Kyle… I really do love...“
He couldn’t do it. The pain was too great. His words were stymied by guilt.
“So where did you and Todd go?” Blake asked again.
“Sorry, bro,” Kelly said. “We’re tight, but there’s some things I can’t tell even you about, yet.”
Blake grumbled over the phone. “Well, any progress?”
“If anything, it all looks more messed up now. I don’t even know what to make of it,” Kelly said.
“Well, don’t get overwhelmed. Take it in stride and tackle each problem separately,” Blake advised.
“I should be saying that to you,” Kelly laughed. “How’s studying going?”
“It’s going. Sorry about not helping you out more. It’s just that I can’t get anything below a…“
“Man, its okay. I understand. Just make sure you do well on those exams.”
“Speaking of which, have you talked to your professors?”
Kelly sighed. “I e-mailed them and tried to book appointments with them. They all tell me the same thing. It’s not their problem and that I should make an appointment with my academic advisor. They’re being pretty cold to someone who was out of it for a while. I mean, what’s the chance I’d forget events of the past few months but remember what the hell they did in class? Sort of asking me to walk on water,” Kelly complained.
“Oh, sorry man, I was playing with my cat. What were you saying?”
“Good night, Blake.”
“Yo, wai-“ was the last thing Kelly heard before he hung up.
Looking at the time, Kelly decided to drop in at the student services center the next morning. He realized he still had a mystery to solve, but he needed to save his credits.
Kelly angrily brushed past a group of conversing students. One student, not looking out where he was going, slightly bumped into Kelly. The boy turned to Kelly, about to lay it on him, until he saw Kelly’s glare. The guy mumbled an apology before giving way to him.
Without a word, Kelly continued to brush past people. A small part of him was hoping someone would piss him off. He wasn’t exactly looking for a fight, but if one came his way, he’d be open to it.
This is bullshit! An Incomplete in each course? Fucking hell!
He would have to arrange to complete at least two of the courses during the summer. He would be allowed a full year for the completion of his five courses, but two of them were pre-reqs for courses he’d already planned to take in the fall term. I’m gonna have to work my ass off for a year, just to keep from falling behind the rest of my class!
“I’m going to see the dean about this. This is sooo gay!” Kelly said aloud to no one.
Some people heard him and gave him odd looks as he walked by them. He realized that what he’d said would be tactless to say in front of Todd.
Kelly’s movement slowed to a normal walking pace. He was wondering if the events of the previous day had had a bigger impact on his brother than he’d realized. Todd had looked like he hadn’t slept well when Kelly had seen him earlier.
Kelly’s mind was set. He didn’t want to deal with his school at the moment. Everyone had exams, and he knew his brother would be preparing for his exams, too, later in the month. He wanted to make sure Todd was prepared, emotionally at least. He decided to spend more time with his little bro.
Mark stared at the open map before him. Several other officers waited quietly for any response from the team.
“B-1 under control.”
“Roger that,” Mark replied into the handset.
“This is gold… Making us come up here but telling us to watch from behind the scenes,” Matt said as he leaned against the car. The other officers gave light chuckles before clearing their throats.
“This is important, Matt,” Mark said seriously. “Don’t fool around.”
“I’m getting a funny feeling,” Steve whispered to himself.
“Kelly, I’d just appreciate it if you’d come home, son. It’s still not safe for you to be out on your own,” Kelly’s mom pleaded. She had him on speakerphone as he was walking towards his car.
“Mom, we’ve been through this. You make it out like someone is after me,” Kelly snapped.
“Don’t take that tone with us, Kelly,” his father ordered. “We’re your parents, not your friends.”
If Kelly’s mouth hadn’t been covering his teeth, his parents would have heard him grinding them.
“I’m sorry, all right?” Kelly said in a softer tone. Softer, but still upset. “I mean, my life is really the shits right now. And the fact that…” He didn’t finish, as someone caught his eye.
“Son, just come home and we’ll talk about it, okay? We’ll have dinner, and then we can explore some options. You make it sound really bad, but the fact remains, you’re still with us.”
“Yeah… Listen, I’ll be home in a bit. I’ll talk to you guys soon,” Kelly said, hanging up.
As he started walking in the direction of a guy he didn’t remember having seen before, something felt all too familiar. He waited for the guy to notice him, and then spoke up. “Do I know you from somewhere?”
“Don’t know who you are, but you wanna buy some stuff off me? Take your pick, man.”
“No thanks, dude.”
Kelly froze. It felt like someone had placed an ice cube right in the centre of his brain.
"Got some prime stuff. It'll make you feel real nice. Maybe some X? Or crystal? Show your girl a good time this weekend..."
Kelly realized he was holding his breath. Slowly, but awkwardly, he let out short bursts.
“You okay, dude?”
“Drugs… Kyle Usher was involved in drugs…” Kelly whispered.
“Whoa, shit! You know Kyle? Yo, man, I’ll hook you up. You his cousin or something?”
Deep in his mind, Kelly knew he was in danger. Turning to walk away, his movement came to a complete stop as he watched a larger man approach. This guy… I know him from somewhere!
“Heard what happened to him, man. No worries, bro, I got your back. Hey, Mr. Alex,” the guy said past Kelly.
Kelly remained frozen as the man made eye contact with him. No matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t will his legs to move.
“You,” Kelly began, “you were with Kyle…” With effort, Kelly forced his mouth to shut. He knew he had to get out of there quickly. As his legs finally co-operated, he walked in the opposite direction of the man named Alex.
A hand clasped his shoulder roughly but securely.
“You have two choices. One, you get in the car… I don’t think you want to hear the other choice.”
Detective Conner knew he was right. He’d finally caught Kelly red-handed. Despite having had his captain threaten to suspend him, Conner couldn’t let the case go. Not when things were finally going somewhere.
Conner watched as Kelly and a man with a large snake tattoo on his arm approached a black Honda Civic. Kelly desperately scanned the street before getting into the vehicle.
“I’ve got you now, Mr. Yates. Your ass is mine!” Conner whispered as he started up his own vehicle.
The detective had followed the black car for about twenty minutes when it headed out into a rural area. He managed to stay a few car lengths away. It was early afternoon and there was moderate traffic on the country road. As the Honda turned into a forested patch, Conner pulled his car into a side path behind some trees.
He watched through the trees as the other car pulled up towards what looked like an ordinary country home. Kelly got out of the vehicle, followed by a man well known to Conner. He had run a check on the car’s plate, and the name that came up was noted as being a possible alias for Alex Cartel.
Why the hell is Yates with Alex Cartel?
He knew that Usher had been involved with dealing, because his file showed some history of possession, but seeing Kelly Yates with this man meant only one thing.
“What the hell is going on…” Conner opened his coat and took out his recorder.
“Kelly Yates and Kyle Usher may have been working with Alex Cartel. That doesn’t explain why Yates would deny knowing Usher, unless there was a coverup. Even still, the accident leaves many questions unanswered. Perhaps there was a disagreement between Kyle and Kelly. Perhaps it was just a freak accident.” Conner turned off the recorder.
“Is that why I was taken off this? This is bigger than just some local homicide case…”
Just as things seemed to begin making sense, it all came crashing down. Conner watched as Cartel took out a gun and used it to knock Kelly out.
What the fuck?
“This is Detective Conner. Connect me to Commander George Dias,” the detective barked into his handset.
Some shouting was the first thing that Conner heard.
“Sir, I have a request and I need you to hear me out. I’ve been tailing that Yates kid…”
“I wasn’t aware that he was already being watched. I’m sure they can confirm…”
Conner paused. “Yes, sir. No, there’s nothing I have to report. Sorry for bothering you.”
Conner put the handset back on the holder before releasing a sigh.
“How are we gonna do this?”
“Switch it off,” the voice ordered.
With a gun to his head, Conner didn’t have a choice. He turned his radio off.
“Get out of the car.”
As the detective opened the door and turned slightly, he breathed a sigh of relief. The man holding the gun to his head was wearing a police uniform.
“I’m with the Springfield Police Department,” Conner said as he got out. “I’m Detective…”
“I know who you are, detective,” the man said as he took Conner’s gun.
“Then get that fucking gun out of my face! We’re both officers.”
The other officer’s silence confirmed what Conner had suddenly suspected. “Fucking hell… Are you the one assigned to watch Kelly Yates?” He found himself laughing at the absurdity. “What a fucking coincidence…”
“Start walking,” the uniformed cop ordered.
“Who the hell is this?” Cartel demanded in a deep voice.
The man behind Conner pushed him forward with his pistol.
“A detective. I found him snooping around here. He’s been following that brat there”
Conner looked towards Kelly. Still breathing… He’s alive.
“Is he the only one?” Cartel growled.
“I’m pretty sure. The bust should go down at the empty warehouse. We’re safe for now.”
“Make sure!” Cartel turned away and looked out a window.
Conner waited until the officer left before checking on Kelly. He was out cold, but alive.
“Let’s just kill them now,” a man in the corner said.
“People will hear gunshots,” Cartel told him. “We’ll wait for the night.”
“I have a knife. We could do them here and now and get rid of them later. I don’t like the idea of them still being alive.”
Cartel raised his voice. “You wanna do it?”
“Is there a reason why you’re after this boy, Mr. Cartel?” Conner asked.
The men stared at him.
A quick glance around told Conner all he needed to know about what they were up to. “You and your bosses have been giving the DEA a lot of problems. This should be enough to put you all behind bars. But I’m still curious to know how Kelly Yates is connected to all this.”
Cartel seemed less of a man than Conner had made him out to be. If anything, he seemed to be too cautious to be a member of a drug ring.
“He was at the wrong place at the wrong time. And if it wasn’t for Kyle Usher, this fucker would be dead, too.”
“Ah, the accident, I presume,” Conner responded.
“You killed Usher?” the man in the corner asked Cartel.
“He was already dead. I didn’t kill anybody!” Cartel shouted.
“So you were in Usher’s truck…chasing Yates? And now you’re going to kill both of us? Do you really think everything will work out for you, Mr. Cartel?” Conner asked, knowing he was treading on thin ice. He needed time to think.
“Can we kill him, already?” the second man asked, standing up. “He’s making me fucking nervous.”
“You’re all going to serve at least fifty years. I know exactly what’s going on. Trafficking drugs, homicide, and kidnapping. That’ll put you away. I’ve called for backup. They’re on their way. I’m giving you boys a chance, here.”
“Bullshit!” Cartel growled. “They would have been here by now!”
“Maybe we should get out of here, though,” the nervous man said.
“Shut up!” Cartel yelled. “He’s lying!”
“You sure about that?” Conner scowled. “Where did your friend, that officer, go? He’s been out there for a while, hasn’t he? Maybe someone should check up on him.” He could almost see the gears turning in their heads.
“Go!” Cartel ordered.
Conner smiled. If there were only the two of them left in the room, he’d have a better chance of escaping. He stared at Cartel and the other man.
I’m gonna need a fucking miracle.
“GET YOUR HANDS UP!” A voice roared behind Conner.
Turning his head, Conner moved off to the side near Kelly as two fully armored men entered the room.
The man who had been about to leave was pinned to the wall as three more men stormed in.
“What the fuck?”
Conner recognized the gear and saw the DEA mark on the backs of the assault team.
“Detective Conner?” one man asked.
“Yeah… And this is the Yates kid,” Conner said, pulling Kelly to an upright, seated position. “What the hell is going on?”
Kelly felt his body being moved as he slowly came into consciousness. Am I going to die? Todd… Blake…
“He’s waking up!”
In a futile attempt, Kelly tried pulling away from the officers who were helping him along.
“It’s all right, kid, you’re safe. Calm down.”
Kelly looked around and turned his head away from the flashing lights.
“Let’s get him to the ambulance,” a man said. Kelly recognized the voice and saw Detective Conner. “Are you injured anywhere, Mr. Yates?”
As much as Kelly despised the man, he was glad to see him.
“My head hurts like hell.”
“You’ve been through a lot, kid, but it’s over now. Don’t worry about anything. We’ll get you to the hospital.”
Looking around, Kelly remembered where he was.
“Did they catch him? His name is Alex… I don’t know the rest… But I think he was with Kyle that night. They were chasing me…”
“They caught him. It’s over now. You did good,” the man said.
Breathing a sigh of relief, Kelly again looked around. Near one vehicle, he noticed two people that he recognized, wearing police uniforms.
Steve and Mark?
The two were talking to someone who was in a car. They were clearly not part of the DEA force.
Conner left Kelly to the other agents and walked towards the three.
“Seems like this was all a setup,” Detective Conner said, as he approached the three men. “And Mr. Usher…is alive?”
Steve, Mark and Kyle turned to the detective.
“Detective Conner, I guess you’re all right,” Steve said, grinning.
“Someone care to explain what the hell is going on?” Conner demanded. He kept turning back to Kyle as if he might disappear the moment he looked away.
“We’re part of the Springfield narcotics bureau. We don’t have anything to do with the detective division, detective. If you want answers, ask your chief.” Steve smiled, clearly enjoying the situation.
“Steve, quit being an ass,” Mark said, shaking his head. “It’s quite complicated, detective, but I’ll give you the gist of it. Yes, this is Kyle Usher. He was helping us take these guys down. We’ve been investigating a drug ring centered here in Springfield. Mr. Usher was the contact, and we were undercover support. He had been our contact for months before the accident with Mr. Yates. He’s the star witness against the drug network. We simply took advantage of the accident to keep him under wraps to ensure nothing happened to him.”
“And why is he here?” the detective asked.
“Well, he sort of escaped.” Mark laughed and turned to Steve, who grumbled. “He’s actually the one who saved you and Kelly Yates today.”
There were many things that were pissing the detective off, but that topped all of it.
“As I said, we’ve been after these guys for months. Today we busted another one of their warehouses.”
The detective nodded.
“It turned out we had a rat in our division,” Mark explained.
“But you caught the rat, right? He’s the guy who was supposed to be watching Kelly?” the detective asked.
“We caught him, but because of him, we were sent on a wild goose chase. These guys are notorious for sneaking off before we can nail them. That’s where Kyle here made an entrance. He was following Kelly.”
“I thought he was his brother Todd, and I was worried about him,” Kyle explained.
“When Kyle saw Kelly get in a car with Alex Cartel, he called us. At the time, we were busting into a house that had already been cleared out.”
“And you guys came here…” the detective finished.
“That’s about right, with some technicalities worked in, because this suddenly turned into a kidnapping incident, too,” Mark said.
“And I’ve been investigating a faked homicide?” the detective spat angrily.
“Hey, we didn’t decide that. Talk to your chief. We didn’t know about you, either. And you nearly blew our cover!” Steve said, raising his voice.
“So, was there even a homicide case?”
“Other than possibly officer Andrews, who was assigned to watch Kelly with the rat, no,” Mark told him.
The detective took out a cigarette, his last one. Frowning, he looked up at the sky. “I need a vacation…”
“Get in line,” Steve shot back.
Todd sat outside on a bench as he watched people enter and exit the hospital. He wanted to be with Kelly, but he had visitors every minute. When his parents had run into his bedroom with the news that Kelly had been taken to the hospital, Todd had nearly lost it. Now that he knew Kelly was all right, all he wanted was to be with him. He’d felt like his brother was going away, and he didn’t want to lose anyone else.
He didn’t know the details, but apparently Kelly had been kidnapped. That didn’t make sense to Todd, and he wanted to ask Kelly what had gone down. He wondered if his brother had done something stupid while trying to clear his name with the detective who still harassed him, or if whatever had happened to him had something to do with Kyle.
“You all right, Todd?” Jessie asked, stepping up to her younger brother. It was pure luck that Jessie had been in Springfield when her other brother was brought in. She was having her monthly checkup at the family doctor that day and was with her parents when they received a call.
Turning to his sister, Todd felt like crying. “Jessie…”
Fulfilling her role as a sister, she sat down beside her brother and placed an arm around him. “What’s up?” she asked.
“I told Kelly everything…”
Jessie’s hug tightened. “How did he take it?”
“A lot better this second time. He was really supportive. We finally broke down that barrier. Now, I feel like I could trust Kelly with anything. It’s like we’ve formed a bond that no one can break. I mean, you know, a stronger bond than we ever had before. But I’m not sure. I mean, I told him the other day and now he’s in the hospital after being kidnapped. I keep thinking it has something to do with Kyle, but I don’t want to believe that. I know Kyle was involved with…bad people…but Kelly wouldn’t go chasing them, not alone, anyway. But other than all this, he almost died again. If the police hadn’t…”
“But he’s safe and alive,” Jessie said. “That’s all that matters.”
Todd sighed. “You’re right. Maybe I’m being stupid.”
“Come on,” Jessie said, getting up. “I wanna see Kelly.”
Todd stood up and looked along the sidewalk. A familiar face approached.
Mark walked up, dressed in his uniform. “Hey, Todd.” Turning to the young woman, Mark tilted his head and said, “Ma’am.”
“That uniform…” Todd began.
“Yeah, I’m here to get a statement from your brother. I was hoping I’d bump into you, first. There’s some things I need to tell you.”
“I’m glad you’re starting to see things my way,” Steve told Kyle. “You have to watch yourself, now. Do you have any idea where you want to start a new life?”
Kyle and Steve stood outside in the hospital parking lot and talked about Kyle’s options.
“I don’t know. Anywhere, I guess. I can’t stay here, can I?”
“You sure about Todd, though? I mean, I know I was against you two and all, but now that everything’s over…don’t you think you guys can start over or something?”
“Do I sense compassion in your voice?” Kyle teased.
“Fuck you, I was just worried and shit. Without Todd, who knows what sort of shit you might get up to. I’m telling you, you’d better pray we don’t ever meet after this day.”
“I swear I won’t do anything illegal,” Kyle said, placing his hand to his heart.
“So, why not take Todd?”
“He’s still just a kid. Given the choice, he might go with me, but I can’t do that to him. We live in two different worlds. I was just a fling, the first boyfriend. He’s over me already. I might as well just give up. I was hoping…” Kyle paused and smiled sadly. “Nah, it’s nothing. I think it’s better that I remain dead.” He remembered having called in to dedicate a song to Todd, and decided that that had been a mistake he’d made when he wasn’t thinking clearly.
“That’s deep,” Steve answered.
“Yeah, so don’t think too hard on it.”
“Are you sure Todd thinks like that?” Steve asked, but was given no answer. “He was really broken up about you being dead.”
Steve’s words barely registered with Kyle, who was still thinking about the song dedication. He knew he shouldn’t have done it, but he felt like his heart was torn in two. One half wanted Todd, while the other wanted Todd to move on for his own good. At that moment, his concern for what would be best for Todd was winning out.
“Why don’t you at least talk to him and clear some things up for him? It’s a bit morbid, and even cruel, leaving it as you being dead. Oh, but maybe you’re afraid to see him?”
Kyle felt that Steve was partially right. If Todd had already moved on, that would be painful to Kyle.
“I wouldn’t be able to say anything,” Kyle whispered. “All he needs to do is look at me. All I need to do is hear his voice, and…”
Kyle heard his name but he didn’t want to turn around. Only one person would say his name that way.
“It’s you, right? Kyle?”
Todd stepped forward. It seemed unreal to him that Kyle was alive, but the man he’d mourned was only a few feet from him.
“Todd, stop,” Kyle said, softly but firmly.
Todd’s footsteps halted.
“Don’t come any closer, Todd…”
“Mark told me everything. I…I don’t even know what to think right now, but it doesn’t really matter. You’re alive!”
“Todd, I’m leaving Springfield,” Kyle said, his back still turned. “I can’t stay here. Safety reasons, you know? I just have to take off to somewhere.”
“Where will you go?”
“Far. I don’t know. Somewhere where no one will recognize me. I don’t want you coming with me. You need to stay here.”
“What if I don’t want to?”
“Kyle…” Mark began.
“Shut up, Mark!” Kyle shouted. “You knew I didn’t want to see him. Why did you bring him here?”
Steve walked up to Mark and tugged at him. “Let’s give them a few minutes.”
Mark and Steve walked towards the hospital entrance. Jessie stood waiting with her arms crossed. Both men could almost feel the pressure from her as they approached.
“So, how did you all meet?” Jessie asked, giving them a thin smile.
Todd was unable to move. He wanted to step forward, but a part of him wanted to run away. He was hurt that Kyle hadn’t wanted to see him. The things Mark had told him about Kyle were overwhelming. He didn’t know what to believe. Had he just been a coverup boyfriend in Kyle’s double life?
If this is what he’s decided, then fine. Todd cleared his throat, wanting to appear to be all right, an adult. He convinced himself that he could wait until later, maybe that night, to cry. He felt that crying at that moment would be useless, if he’d in fact been just a tool in Kyle’s coverup.
“Will you come back?” Todd asked, finally, his voice sounding neutral. “When things calm down?”
“You’ll have moved on by then, Todd.” Kyle sighed as if he were talking to a child. “We both know that…”
“How can you say that?” The anguish was heavy in Todd’s voice. “For all these weeks, I had to pretend that I was all right. The only sadness I was allowed to express was over the fact that my brother was in a coma. I was tormented by the things I couldn’t say, things I couldn’t do! Everything I went through. What the hell do you call that? All of it was slowly killing me. But you’re alive, and this is all I get?”
Kyle’s heart ached. I’ve made Todd suffer.
“The worst thing is that I never got to tell you how I really felt. I realize it more now than I ever did…”
“Don’t!” Kyle shouted. He really didn’t know what he wanted, or what Todd expected him to do. He needed time to think, but he knew he couldn’t think clearly with Todd on his mind.
Tears began to streak Todd’s cheeks and he didn’t try to hide them. He felt like he’d been a fool for believing that Kyle loved him. “You don’t understand how much you mean to me. When I thought you’d died, my world vanished. You made me believe you. I really thought you loved me… I love you.”
Todd paused, wanting to ask Kyle if it was all one-sided, but his tears silenced him. He felt that he had to hear Kyle tell him it was over, if it was over.
”Why did you say that?” Kyle whispered just as Todd was about to speak. “How can I leave you after hearing that?” Turning to face the boy, Kyle couldn’t deny the sadness that showed in his eyes. “You’re such an idiot, Todd.”
Todd’s anguish vanished as he looked at Kyle. He saw the curves and features of Kyle’s face, the pain that filled his pale green eyes, and the perfect lips that smiled at him.
Todd stood still as Kyle walked up slowly and wrapped his arms gently around his trembling body. He breathed in Kyle’s scent and knew it wasn’t a dream.
“I can’t let you go,” Todd heard himself saying. “I’m just a kid. I’m a selfish kid…”
“It’s all right to be selfish.”
“It looks like they made up,” Mark said, nudging Steve.
“Is he a good guy? That Kyle person? My parents are going to want to meet him, whenever Todd comes out to them. He’d better clean up before he meets them; he looks like a sketchy person,” Jessie nagged.
“Maybe we should go see Kelly,” Steve suggested, as he ignored Jessie.
“Yeah, let’s do it.” Mark followed him.
“Hey! Excuse me! I’m talking to you!” Jessie chased after them.
“So, both of you were undercover narcs?” Kelly asked.
“Yup. Steve’s my partner on the force and partner in life,” Mark said.
“Why you two?” Kelly asked.
“Because Kyle is gay and our captain figured he would only have gay friends, so why not use the gay partners in the narcotics bureau,” Steve said sarcastically.
Steve made a grab for Mark’s hand. Unfortunately for him, Mark was too fast.
“Listen, Kelly. There are some things you need to know about the night of your accident. Steve and I were at the bar when you started picking a fight with Kyle.”
“Kyle was with someone else,” Kelly said.
“Yeah, that was Alex Cartel. You walked up at a bad time, and he stepped aside. You told Kyle you didn’t want him around your brother. You also said you were going to the police. How did you know Kyle was involved with drugs?”
“He tried selling me some one day. I remembered him,” Kelly said.
“Okay, that makes sense. Anyway, you threatened Kyle and that pissed him off. Cartel convinced Kyle to go after you, and Kyle probably figured they were just going to scare you a bit.
“Kyle was in the back of his truck shouting threats at you, apparently, as they chased you. I don’t know exactly what happened, but Kyle realized that Cartel didn’t simply want you scared, he wanted you dead, and he wanted Kyle to do it. Kyle said he saw Cartel pull out a gun, and he said it all happened too fast, but the result was the accident. Cartel obviously took off out of fear of being caught.”
As Kelly listened to more details, he did recall something about being chased. Everything was still foggy in his head, and the doctor had said he might not be able to recover everything that happened. From what he was told and what he remembered, some things were actually fitting together.
“We had two officers follow you after you came out of that coma, because we figured you were in danger. We had a bit of a rat problem on the force. Detective Conner was an involuntary buffer…sort of.” Mark smiled. “We know he gave you problems, but nothing would have happened to you.”
“Guys, I appreciate knowing all this, but somehow I feel like I’d sleep better without knowing,” Kelly said. “I’m more concerned with that Kyle guy. You say he’s alive?”
“Actually, he’s with Todd right now,” Steve said, “and you’re not going to do anything about that.”
“Steve…” Mark began.
“Todd told us what you said to him. I’m just doing my job as an officer, but I could really hate your guts,” Steve continued.
“Todd really loves him,” Kelly said. “I think I sort of freaked out because I didn’t want Todd to be gay. I probably thought Kyle had made him gay… I don’t actually know why it freaked me out back then. Kyle is okay, isn’t he? I mean, he’s not really a druggie, right?”
“No, he’s not. He was just in it for a while for the money. He’s actually clean,” Mark replied.
“I want my brother to be happy…”
“Yeah, we know,” Mark replied, “but it’s a problem if Kyle stays in Springfield.”
“Todd’s just a kid,” Kelly said.
“He’s a big boy now, Kel,” Jessie said, standing by the door. She had been there the whole time, and felt that the discussion about the incident was over.
“Todd can make his own decisions. He finishes at Springfield High this semester, which is almost over. He hasn’t really made long-term plans, considering what’s been going on. After he graduates, he can go wherever he wants. I’m sure Todd and this Kyle fellow can figure it all out,” Jessie said. “If he needs to, Todd can even come to Jacksonville and stay with Ryan and me, and then our baby, too. Mom and dad wouldn’t mind.”
“Mom and dad don’t know about Todd,” Kelly told his sister.
“We’ll wait until he’s ready to tell them,” Jessie said. “And we’re going to be supportive elder siblings, right?”