The Dance

of the Wicked Boys

by FreeThinker


Chapter Nine 

Rafael hung up the receiver, smiling with satisfaction. This was going to be fun. Maybe dangerous, but certainly fun.

He walked back to his bedroom. His mother was entertaining some guests in the living room and he knew he should check in before he left to carry his plan. He would have to do it now, because he wouldn’t look “presentable” if he waited until he was leaving.

He didn’t remember the names of the couple sitting on the couch. They had been introduced when they arrived, but he hadn’t really been paying attention. His mother was sitting in a chair near the couch and the three were all drinking as he peeked around a corner and said, with a smile, “Mom, I’m going to hang out with a couple of friends for a while. I’ll be back before eleven.”

His mother hesitated before answering, “Very good, Rafael. Do call me if you’re going to be late. Please. Be careful.”

Rafael knew she wanted to object. He knew she wanted to know everything. It was best she didn’t. He nodded and smiled at the guests as he said, “It was nice to see you again!”

“Have fun, Rafael,” the man said as his wife said, “Good night, Rafael.”

He nodded and disappeared, and as he crossed the foyer to the hallway, he heard the woman say, “He’s such a handsome young man.”

The man remarked, “You’re very lucky, Gloria, to have such a respectful son. Kids today have really lost all that respect for their elders.”

He smiled as he walked down the hall to his room. If they only knew what he was about to do, they might rethink what they had just said!

He left the light off in his bedroom as he shucked his clothes. Standing naked and partially erect, he picked up a pair of cut-offs and slipped them on without underwear. He took a pair of old jeans in his closet from last summer and cut them off to a not-very-respectable length, revealing almost all of his thighs. He slipped his feet back into his Topsiders and then pulled on a Navy blue Lacoste. He removed his watch and slipped it into the pocket of his cut-offs. With his tanned olive skin, and his dark clothes, he would be hard to see in the unlit areas along the river. But, when they did see him, he was definitely going to be their center of attention! He felt himself become fully erect and ran his hand over the crotch of his tight jeans, feeling an illicit horniness flow through him. He took a deep breath. He was going to have to remember why he was doing this and not forget what he was supposed to be doing.

He quietly slipped out the door of his room and down the hallway, paused at the foyer to make certain no one was coming, and then headed toward the back of the house. He was relieved that Claretta was nowhere to be seen as he ran across the informal dining area to the sliding glass doors.

The daytime heat was still radiating off the concrete patio as he climbed onto his waiting bicycle and rode around to the driveway. His mother’s friends were seated with the their backs to the large picture window in the front and his mother was at the wrong angle to see him. Nonetheless, it was with some trepidation that he quickly pedaled to the street and then made a quick, sharp turn to the left to avoid being seen from the house. Only when he had passed the first corner did he relax. He had escaped. It wouldn’t have been good to be seen by his mother’s friends in such short and tight cut-offs or in such a state of arousal, even if it was for a good cause.

Yes, he was excited. He was doing something illicit, dangerous, nasty. It was reminiscent of his time with Stephen. Danger, the knowledge he was doing something forbidden, it all added to the excitement—and there was an undercurrent of shame that somehow made it all the more arousing. He wouldn’t allow himself to dwell on that however, nor would he allow himself to get lost in the moment, lost in the feeling, lost in the excitement as he had when he was younger and Stephen was with him. He was on a mission. He had to remember why he was doing this, for whom he was doing this. He couldn’t let himself get so caught up in what was happening that he lost control, that he gave in to that dark side, the self-destructive side, that he lost sight of the goal, the purpose, the reason he was doing this.

He was approaching the bridge, the river, and the park along the river. A car was just turning off of Jeff Davis Blvd. and onto Parkside Avenue. He was riding along the sidewalk and slowed down. He needed to do some recon work first, to get a feel for the scene, and an understanding of what he was getting into. He stopped at the corner at Parkside Avenue and looked around.

The park running along the river was, perhaps, half-a-block wide and running to the south. There was a bike/running path through the middle with a very few light poles about every half-block or so casting a pale, sliver-blue light that didn’t do much to illuminate the path. There was an outside pay-phone at the north end of the park, across Parkside from where Rafael was sitting on his bike. The path ran under the Jeff Davis bridge and on to the park on the other side of the bridge. He could hear the soft roar of the train yard to the northwest and see the four towers of downtown Greensburg to his right. Somewhere in the distance, an ambulance siren wailed, just barely audible over the chirping of the crickets and the croaking of the frogs in the park. Rafael slapped a mosquito that landed on his exposed thigh. It was a summer night in Greensburg.

There were figures walking along the pathway, not a lot, but several interspersed among the crepe myrtle that lined the path. The river bank was visible for about a block running south from the bridge, but then it became obscured by brush and overgrowth that hadn’t been cleared. He could see a dark area to the south, perhaps a block and a half down Parkside where one of the faint lights was out. There were green wooden park benches along the path every hundred feet or so. He could see someone sitting on a bench just north of the darker area, someone else sitting on another bench further down the path beyond the darker area.  Both appeared to be men. In fact, everyone he saw, the figures on the benches, the figures strolling along the path, all were men or, in one case, what appeared to be a teen. A teen? Wow. So, perhaps he wouldn’t appear too out of place riding his bike along the path.

Or should he walk? He would have greater flexibility if he were on foot, but he could escape much faster, if need be, on his bike. And, where was the next telephone? Probably not until the next bridge across the river a couple of miles down at Rampart Street. Hmm. What to do?

There were several cars parked along the street, three down in the darker area, one of which looked like an old Ford. He looked around for a police car, but saw none. That was good and bad. He didn’t want their interference, yet he would need them later.

Rafael jumped the curb onto the street and turned down Parkside. He would ride down the street and  gather more intel before making any decisions.

A man walking north along the path turned and looked at him rather obviously. He appeared to be in his forties, wearing dark slacks and a plaid, short-sleeved sport shirt. Rafael slowed down to see what the man’s reaction would be and it was just as he suspected. The man stopped and turned as he watched Rafael slowly ride past. He cocked his head as if asking if Rafael were interested. Rafael cocked his head, as well, and the man started to walk across the grass before Rafael turned his head back and pedaled on down Parkside.

Okay. That answered his primary question: this was a cruising area. The men here were looking for sexual partners. And, if this man were any indication, they seemed to be rather brazen about it.

Or, it could have been because Rafael was so hot. He felt his erection throb in his shorts at the thought of being desirable to the men along here. Rafael loved to feel desirable. He loved knowing he turned on others. It was part of the perversion, he assumed, that Stephen had created in him. Well, he wasn’t going to beat himself up over it this evening. He would use it.

Yes. The second of the three cars parked in the darkened area of the park was a green, ’49 Ford. It was empty. He looked at the tag. Yes, this was the same car that had been parked in the driveway at the McCoy’s house that afternoon, the same car he had seen parked in the lot across the bridge. Jimmy Dale McCoy was somewhere along the path here in the park. He slowly rode on as the man on the bench to his right watched him. It was too dark to see much detail, but the man wasn’t Jimmy Dale. He definitely wasn’t big enough. However, the man emerging from the trees was big enough. He was wearing dark slacks and a white, short sleeved shirt with a dark tie, just as Jimmy Dale had been earlier. How stupid, Rafael thought, to wear something so conspicuous in such a dark place. Perhaps, Jimmy Dale knew something Rafael didn’t. Rafael rode closer and as he passed the third car, a late-fifties, early sixties, blue Chevy Bel-Aire with obnoxious fins, he saw Jimmy Dale watch him ride past. Was it light enough for him to recognize Rafael? He wasn’t certain, but he turned his head back forward and continued to pedal on.

The teenager he had seen from up the street had walked down past the cars and Rafael was now passing him. Perhaps it might be instructive to stop and talk to him. Rafael rode just a little further on and then turned around and stopped along the curb, pointing the wrong direction, with his foot on the curb, his left leg extended outward. His natural inclination, when extending his leg, was to point his foot as a dancer would. He caught himself and smiled, which the approaching teenager seemed to notice.

The kid was probably fifteen as well, wearing jeans and work boots with a greasy, white-and-blue striped work shirt with the short sleeves rolled all the way up, revealing strong biceps, bigger than Rafael’s. The kid’s dark hair was greased back in  the style of the fifties and early sixties, and he had a cigarette behind his ear. He sauntered along the path in a cocky and arrogant way as he gave Rafael a deep and serious look that seemed both hostile and curious.

He gave Rafael a single upward nod of his head. Rafael did the same, at which the guy looked back over his shoulder toward a car parked across the street for just a moment before looking back at Rafael.

“Gotta a light?” he asked as he approached, pulling the cigarette down from behind his ear.

“Naw,” Rafael replied in his best Southern  accent. “Don’t smoke.”

“What do you do?” the tough guy asked.

Rafael wasn’t entirely certain the guy wasn’t about to beat the holy crap out of him or pull out a switch-blade. But, there were men sitting on the benches all along the path. Rafael got the impression this guy was not a stranger to the park, so he was probably safe. He replied, “What do you want me to do?”

“Ooh. Pretty Boy sounds a kinda sure of himself,” the guy sneered. “I ain’t seen ya here a’fore.”

Rafael shrugged and said, “I’m just out for a ride. Seeing what’s happenin’.”

The guy grabbed his crotch and said, “This is what’s happenin’.”

Rafael raised an eyebrow as he said, “You gettin’ any takers?”

“Not tonight. Not yet. It’s early.”

The guy brazenly looked Rafael over and asked, “You givin’ it away?  ‘Cause this is my cruise and I don’t want no competition from some Hampton Park faggot  lookin’ to get a quick blow job.”

“Naw, man. I was just riding by.”

“In those shorts?”

This guy was disgusting, but Rafael suddenly felt a rush or horniness. This was so wrong, so different from the elegant sophistication of the dancers at Ballet Academy and Ballet of America, from the men who came to Uncle Teddy’s parties. This was dangerous. The kid was a bad boy. It was wrong, so wrong. But, so hot...

“Maybe you’re not peddling your hot ass. Maybe you’re looking to do the scoring,” the guy remarked as he cocked his head. “You wanna get on your knees for me?”

Breathlessly, Rafael replied, “Maybe.”

“I need to get some work done on my bike. New spark plug, shit like that. You think you can help me out?”

Rafael’s mind was spinning. He was in a fog of horniness which he hadn’t experienced since that Saturday with Anthony in London a few weeks earlier. He looked up the path and saw Jimmy Dale sitting on the bench, obviously watching. Rafael suddenly remembered why he was there.

He closed his eyes. He had to get control. He had to remember what he was doing.

“Maybe,” he replied to the kid. Then, an idea occurred to him.

“I want some information.”

“What?” the guy replied. He was looking at the obvious outline of the hardness in Rafael’s tight shorts.

“Five bucks. Tell me about the fat guy on the bench.”

“You don’t want to suck my cock?”

“Yeah, I do. But, not now. I want to know about that guy on the bench.”

“Oh, shit. You are one sick dude, man. Is that what you want?”


The guy looked at Rafael as if he were insane. As Rafael pulled out his wallet, the guy said, “Man, you could have any guy out here tonight. I mean anyone. You are hot as fuck. Why him?”

“I’m not looking to do it with him,” Rafael replied, dropping his accent. “I want to know about him.

“I’ll tell ya all about him,” the guy said. “Give me the money first.”

Rafael nodded, handed a five to the guy, and then said, “I’ll give you another five if I like what you have to tell me.”

The guy nodded, but then asked, “First, you tell me why you’re interested.”

Rafael considered it as he looked the guy in the eyes. After a few seconds he nodded and said, “All right. I know him, or rather I know of him.”

“Yeah? He ever do anything to you?”

Rafael shook his head, but replied, “To someone I know. A friend. He hits him. Now, you’re turn.”

The guy nodded and replied, “He is one sick fuck, man. He goes over there in the bushes and takes his clothes off and jacks-off. I never seen him actually do anything with anyone. He just goes in the bushes and get naked. I don’t think he could ever get anyone to do anything with him anyway. I sure as hell wouldn’t. He couldn’t pay me enough. He talks dirty to himself, like he’s talking to someone. He says shit like, ‘Yeah, Jeremy, you little faggot. You like suckin’ that big cock don‘t ya, ya little dancin’ faggot cocksucker. Suck my peter. Yeah.’”

Rafael looked at the guy with a stunned expression.

“Are you sure he said, ‘Jeremy?”

The guy nodded. “Why?”

“Jeremy’s my friend.”

“Yeah? You think he’s doing shit to him?”

“I know he hits him.”


“I want him to suffer. I want this bastard to pay.”

“Were you comin’ down here to set him up or to do it yourself?” the guy asked.

Only then did Rafael glance at the packet of cigarettes in the guy’s shirt pocket. The headlights of a car approaching from behind Rafael illuminated a thin silver wire sticking out of the pack and running into the guy’s shirt. Rafael looked up into his eyes, which were focused on his. The guy knew Rafael had seen it. Rafael felt a chill. His eyes grew wide.

“Don’t move,” the guy said. “Don’t say anything. You wanna see this pig get what’s comin’ to him?”

“Yes,” Rafael breathed.

The guy leaned close to Rafael and silently handed the five dollar bill back to him. With a hand over the cigarette pack, he whispered, “Ride slowly over to the corner and turn up Litchfield. Wait in that shadow over there and watch. Then, after it goes down, ride like fuck to get out of here. You understand?”

Rafael nodded.

“I don’t want you involved, unless you want to be.”

“No. I don’t.”

“Were you going to try to set him up or something?”


The guy shook his head and then removing his hand from the cigarettes, said, “So, was that what you wanted to know?”

“Yeah. So, I think I’m going to ride on home.”

“Okay. See ya.”

“See ya.”

Trembling, with fear and excitement, Rafael pushed off from the curb and rode across the street to the next corner. He turned up Litchfield Avenue and rode about fifty feet before he turned around in the shadow under a large oak tree. He could see the bench on which Jimmy Dale was sitting quite clearly. The guy—was he an undercover cop?—was strolling toward Jimmy Dale. He stopped at the bench and started talking to him. Rafael was trembling even more now, as much from fear of what was about to happen as from what could have happened. He felt like an idiot to think he could have done anything like what he had planned. What the Hell had he been thinking?

Jimmy Dale rose from the bench and he walked a few feet up the path before the younger guy turned and walked away. When Jimmy Dale turned and entered the bushes, the younger guy stopped. He appeared to be talking to himself. Then the doors of the car parked across the street from the bench opened. Rafael watched as two men in normal clothes—slacks and short-sleeved shirts, but with some shiny things hanging off their belts walked across the street. The young guy walked back toward the spot where Jimmy Dale had disappeared and then walked into the bushes. The men followed. And, then, the excitement started.

Rafael saw two police cars with lights off pull up from the north and two more from the south. The other men who’d been cruising along the path started scurrying off as policemen ran from the cars in pursuit. A couple were caught and Rafael watched with horror as they were handcuffed. Then, suddenly, Jimmy Dale burst naked from within the bushes running toward his car, the two men who had earlier entered the bushes in pursuit. He didn’t get far. About half-way to the car, the men brought him down to the ground. In seconds, he was handcuffed and dragged naked to his feet. Rafael could hear him saying something, obviously emotional, which at Rafael’s distance was unintelligible. Another police car pulled up and the men put Jimmy Dale in the backseat. The young guy with whom Rafael had been speaking walked toward the car. He saw Rafael up the street and then jerked his head several times as if signaling emphatically for him to leave. Rafael nodded, turned around on his bike and took off, pedaling as fast as he could.

When he arrived home, his mother’s friends were gone. The front of the house was dark. He rode up the driveway and around the back of the house, stopping on the patio. He jumped off the bike and hurried to the kitchen door, unlocked it, quickly stepped inside, and closed the door behind him. He leaned back against the door and closed his eyes, panting and gasping for breath as if he had just performed the most energetic and demanding ballet possible. His hands were trembling as he whispered to himself, “I’m an idiot. I’m a fucking idiot. I’m an idiot. I am an idiot!”

What had he been thinking? Why in the bloody hell had he thought he could pull off what he had planned? What would have happened if he had tried and the police had chosen that moment to swoop in? He would have been arrested. He would have been kicked out of Ballet Academy. His career would have been over. What the fuck had he been thinking?

He had to piss. He had to piss badly. He stepped into the small bathroom off the kitchen and took care of it, amazed at how much his penis had shrunk.

Still breathing hard, he walked through the house. The light in his mother’s study/bedroom was on under the door. He walked past, into the hallway and to his bedroom. He closed the door behind him and sat down on his bed, staring across the room, still trembling.

Teddy. He needed to talk to Teddy. Yes, Teddy would calm him down and help him put it all into perspective. He stripped his clothes off, put on his robe and padded outside into the hall to the family room. Once again, in the dark, sitting on the couch, he dialed the telephone number with the 212 area code.

“Somewhere over the rainbow,” Teddy answered. “The man behind the curtain speaking.”

In the background, Rafael could hear “Paper Roses.”

“Hey, Teddy.”

“Rafi, dear! How are you?”

“You’re alone, aren’t you?”

“Yes, I am. How did you know?”

Rafael smiled, despite his anxiety and fear, as he replied, “None of The Things would tolerate Anita Bryant.”

“Fie. You see right through me, don’t you?”


Rafael paused a moment and then Teddy said in a much more serious voice, “Something’s wrong. What’s happened, Rafi? Are you all right?”

Rafael felt like a little boy as he started to cry. “No, Teddy, I’m  not.”

“What’s happened?” Teddy asked, deadly serious. “Do I need to fly down?”

“I don’t know,” Rafael wailed. “I don’t know. Teddy, I fucked up tonight and... I could have gotten hurt...I could have gotten arrested, Teddy. God, I’m such a fuck up! I’m so stupid. I’m so fucking stupid. Stephen was right. There’s only one thing I’m good for.”

“Stop that, Rafael,” Teddy ordered firmly. “You will never say that to me. Rafael, you a gifted and decent young man. You are the finest boy I know and I will not have you put yourself down that way. Do you hear me? You will never, ever  repeat those hateful words of your stepfather to me. Never. I love you, Rafael, and no matter what happened, I’m here for your, Rafi. Do you understand? Rafi?”

“Yes, I understand,” the boy replied as he struggled to stop crying.

“Now, take it slow and tell me what happened,” Teddy directed.

“Yes, sir,” Rafael replied. “This morning, I rode my bike over to see Jeremy and... oh, Teddy. I think I’m in love. I know it’s crazy, Teddy. I know I’m fifteen and he’s twelve. I know it’s only the second time I’ve ever met him. I know I haven’t seen him since he was seven, but I really think I’m in love with him.”

“Why?” Teddy asked gently.

Rafael sniffed and said, “He’s so sensitive and yet, he looks so... pugnacious is the only word I can think of. He’s strong and muscular. He’s got the kind of body at twelve that he shouldn’t have until later, when he’s doing the upper-body work at sixteen and seventeen. And, well, he loves dance and... Teddy, he needs to dance. He needs it like he needs food and water and air. Teddy, I watched him mowing the grass and he was so elegant and graceful with that mower... It was like he was dancing with the lawn mower. Do I sound insane?”

“No. You don’t sound insane. You sound like you’re in love.”

“Oh, God,” Rafael muttered as he wiped the tears from his eyes and the snot from his nose with the back of his hand.

“All right, tell me the rest,” Teddy said gently.

“Well, Mom and Mr. Harrison met this morning and she agreed to seek custody of Jeremy. I couldn’t believe it, but she did. She says it’s for the money, but I really think there’s something inside her that’s making her do this. I think it might be guilt about me. I said some pretty harsh things to her Monday when I first got here.”

“Well, your mother is a jackal and she will do whatever she has to do to survive, but even mother jackals have motherly instincts.”

“Yeah,” Rafael replied with a smile. “You should have seen her, though, when we met with Jeremy’s uncle this afternoon. She offered to pay him for Jeremy, but no matter what we said or offered, he said no. He was pretending he was just trying to protect Jeremy and looking out for his soul, but it was obvious it was all just a negotiating tactic. Mom said so as we were leaving. But, while we were talking, I saw something else in him. He was looking me over like he wanted to throw me down and do me right there in front of everyone.”

“Ah, so he’s one of those, a queer bubbas who went in to the ministry because of his shame over being queer.”

“ No, I think he’s just a sick bastard, but anyway, I deliberately popped a bone standing there to see what he would do and he was practically salivating all over the floor. So, anyway, we left and I told Jeremy not to worry. The thing is, though, when I was riding home on my bike that morning, I saw this old ’49 Ford at the river park, where people go to cruise. Well, that same car was parked in the driveway when we got there that afternoon.”

“Ah ha! Our crazy preacher is getting some on the side!”

“Well, and this is where, I think I went a little crazy,” Rafael said with shame dripping from his voice.

“Oh, no. Rafael! You didn’t? You didn’t!”

“I asked Jeremy if his uncle ever disappears at night and he said that he did and that he always said it was because he was going to visit sick members of his congregation. So, I told Jeremy to call me tonight when he left.”

“Oh, Rafael. Oh, God...”

“Well, Teddy, I knew Mom and Jimmy Dale were going to talk again...”

“Jimmy Dale? You can’t be serious. That’s really his name?”

Rafi rolled his eyes and said, “This is the South. Believe me, it could be worse. Anyway, I knew what Jimmy Dale was like so I thought, well, maybe I could add a little inducement to help in the negotiations.”

“Dear God...”

“Well, when Jeremy called me about nine-fifteen and said his uncle had left, I went to my room and put on some really tight, really short cut-offs and I went to the park along the river and, well, I watched what was going on and Jimmy Dale was there and...”

“What in the hell were you planning?”

“Well, I thought I’d catch him and then I could either make a deal with him, you know, something like I’d have sex with him and he’d let Jeremy go, or I could flirt with him and when he made a move, I could then tell him to let Jeremy go or I’d call the police or if I saw him go off with someone there in the bushes or something, I could call the police and they could arrest him for, I don’t know, public sex or whatever they call it. I just thought I’d work it out at the time, do what would work best.”

“Oh, Rafael, you have no idea the danger you put yourself in or the damage you could have caused Jeremy and his aunt and cousin or your mother or even me...”

Rafael didn’t say anything as he thought about it. Yes, it could really have backfired. But, he had been so confident going in to it.

“Well, anyway this guy about my age, he looked like a greaser, he came up to me and I thought he was hitting on me and then he said he was a prostitute...”

“Oh, God. A hustler. Dear God, Rafi! What happened?”

“Well, I paid him to tell me about Jimmy Dale. I almost went to the bushes with him because... well, it was all so exciting and different and dangerous...”

“Jesus! I am never letting you out of my sight when you get back home. If you can do this in Greensburg, God only knows what you’re going to start doing here!”

“Well, I didn’t go off with him because he asked me about why I wanted to know about Jimmy Dale and I told him it was because he was hitting a friend of mine and it turned out the hustler was really working with the police. He had this radio in his pocket that looked like a pack of cigarettes and well, he warned me to go across the street and I did and then Jimmy Dale went into the bushes and he got naked and then the police all swooped down all over the place and they arrested him and I just rode like hell to get home and...”

“Oh, Rafael. Did you give this hustler/policeman your name?”


“You didn’t offer to do anything sexual?”

“Well, he asked me, but I said no.”

“Thank God. So, you’re home and safe now?”

“Yes, but I’m freaking out because I almost... I could have been arrested, Teddy. I mean, like I was this close to going off with him.”

“Oh, Rafi. I understand, but... You’re safe now. However, what if Jimmy Dale had attacked you or killed you to keep you quiet? Back in those bushes, where no one could see? And, did you stop to think how exposing him would have hurt his family? How do you think his wife and son are going to feel now? You swear you didn’t lead the police to him?”

“No, and the undercover guy, after I told him about Jimmy Dale hitting Jeremy, he was like he wanted to take care of me and make sure I was safe. He’s the one who told me to ride like hell when everything went down.”

“Rafael, you could have destroyed that family. Did you stop to think of the consequences of what you were doing? How his wife and his son would feel? You swear you had nothing to do with his arrest?”

“I swear. Just what I said about him hitting Jeremy.”

“Oh, Rafi,” Teddy said wearily, “there is so much, so very much that could have gone wrong.”

“I know that now, Teddy,” Rafael replied. “That’s why I’m freaking out, now.”

“I understand. Do you want me to fly down there now? Things are going to get scary now, I think, with Billy Bob in jail.”

“It’s Jimmy Dale.”

“Whatever. Do you need me?”

“Of course, I need you, but you don’t need to come. I’m flying back Sunday, anyway, though I might have to wait and see what happens.”

“All right. This is serious, Rafael. You must keep a low profile. You let that lawyer and your mother handle all of this. You do not tell them what you did. You do not mention a word.”

“I need to see Jeremy.”

“NO! Not until you are sure the crazy uncle isn’t there. Do not call. Let Jeremy call you. I am serious. Do you understand me, Rafael?”


“Good. You can’t be involved in what happened tonight in any way. Now, I think you need to get some sleep. I’ll call your mother tomorrow, but I will act as if I have no idea what’s happened. Okay?”

“All right.”

“Now, you go to bed, Rafi. Relax. You’re safe. Soon, you’ll be home.”

Rafael sniffed, but said nothing. After a moment, Teddy asked, “Rafi, are you there?”

“Yeah,” the boy replied weakly. “I just... I just don’t want to be alone with myself. I just... I hate myself... I wish...”

“Rafael, you’ve always been a passionate boy. You’ve always felt things more deeply than others. I think that’s why you devote so much of yourself to your dancing. It’s your escape. Perhaps you should go down to the basement and dance. Just get into your dancing for a while. You’ll feel better. It’ll be better than lying in bed and letting the hamster wheel in your head spin.”

Rafael nodded and Teddy said, “Rafi, I can’t hear you nodding.”

“How did you know...” the boy asked in amazement.

“I know you. Now, go dance for a while.”

“All right. I love you, Teddy.”

“I love you, too, Rafi. Call me tomorrow.”

“Good night.”

Rafael hung up the phone. Teddy was right. He needed to dance.

Still, though, he had to wonder—what had he done? Would the police have targeted Jimmy Dale that night if he hadn’t spoken about him to the undercover officer or whoever the guy was? Would they have gotten someone else? Did it matter? Would they have gotten him anyway? How was all this going to affect Jeremy? And, what about Jane and Benji?

He rose and placed the telephone back on the side table as he walked out of the room. He was going to dance, but he knew it wasn’t going to clear his mind. It wasn’t going to work tonight. He was going to have to be alone with Rafael Colon and he wasn’t sure he could stand himself just then.

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