Peter put an arm across his partner’s shoulders and gave him a squeeze of support. “Alan, calm down. It’s going to be all right.”
Alan shrugged off the arm and glared at his boyfriend. “All right? How can you say that? We don’t know where they’ve taken Troy or when we’ll get him back!”
Peter took a deep breath and told himself he had to stay calm for both their sakes. “The police are already onto it. Come on, let’s be reasonable. Troy doesn’t have a passport, so they can’t take him out of the country, and that means that sooner or later he’ll be found. We can always alert the media, too, if we have to. There’s no way they’ll be able to hide if their pictures are on the news.”
“No! No media. If the story ends up on the TV, Lisa’ll hear about it, and that’ll destroy her. We’ve got to keep this quiet. I don’t want anyone to know who doesn’t need to.”
“Okay, no media,” Peter said, mentally keeping the option in reserve. “But let the police do their job. We need to concentrate on Bradley.”
Alan glanced guiltily at the young boy playing with the Lego racers that they’d received two weeks before from Shane and Keidan. Bradley had been distressed and was asking for his brother when Peter had arrived at the police station, but the boy had been easily distracted once they arrived home. Peter wished that Alan could be as easily diverted.
“But, nothing. You need something to do, so why don’t you play with Bradley, and I’ll start cooking dinner. You can tell me what happened at the hearing while we eat.”
Alan’s face screwed up into a snarl. “They knew! They had to have known what was going to happen and had this planned. If we still had Bradley at childcare, I’m sure they’d have grabbed him, too!”
Peter sighed and gave Alan a gentle shove towards the young boy. “Go play. You need to look after Bradley, and he’s going to get upset again if you’re not careful. Go on. He needs you.” He gave Alan another gentle push which did the trick.
Alan moved over and knelt down. “What are you playing, Bradley? Can I join in?”
Bradley grinned and pushed one of the Lego constructs towards his uncle. “Sure! You can be the blue racer. He’s cool, but not as fast as my red racer.”
Peter’s smile lasted until he reached the kitchen. There, he took a moment to rest his head against the wall and clenched his fists. While he would have been happy with the boys going to live with the Lyntons, stealing Troy away had triggered a cold anger that matched Alan’s rage. There was no way he was going to let them keep Alan’s nephew.
* * *
“Surprise!” Steve’s grin faltered as he took in Alan’s haggard appearance. “Okay, it’s not really a surprise, but I would have expected a bit more joy for Fun Friday. What’s wrong?”
Alan waved Steve and Keidan inside. “Can you go into the kitchen after you’ve said hello to Bradley? I don’t want him to overhear us,” Alan whispered.
Steve and Keidan exchanged worried looks before they entered the house. Putting on a happier face, Steve stepped into the lounge room where he expected the boys to be waiting. “Look who’s here!”
“Steve!” Bradley jumped up from his colouring-in book and tackled Steve’s right leg. “What’ve you got for me?”
“I’ve got something, but we have to wait for your brother.” Steve looked around. “Where is he?” It was then he saw Peter wince, and he knew that something was wrong.
Bradley pouted. “He’s not here. Does that mean I don’t get anything?”
Steve smiled down at the young boy. “Well I don’t know about that. We’ll have to see. Have you been good?” Steve lifted his head to catch Keidan’s attention and signalled for him to head to the kitchen. Keidan nodded and moved off, gathering Alan and Peter as he went.
Bradley let go of Steve’s leg. “I’ve been reeeaaally good. Tracey said so.”
“In that case, how about we have a game of KerPlunk?” Steve said as he knelt down and put the bag he’d been carrying on the carpet.
Steve smiled, though he was concerned about what had happened to Troy. He had already discounted an accident, as Alan would have stayed at the hospital with him if that had been the case. “It’s a really fun game, though I should warn you, Keidan’s really, really good at it.”
* * *
“What do you want us to do?” Keidan asked.
Alan shook his head, not lifting his gaze from the lounge-room carpet. “Nothing. There’s nothing anyone can do. We just have to wait. I wish I had gone straight to the school from the hearing. Then there wouldn’t have been any problem. I feel so fucking stupid; this is why they were so adamant about getting access to the boys! I should have realised.”
Peter had his arm around Alan, giving support to his boyfriend while Steve kept Bradley busy in the study playing computer games. Alan had become more and more listless as the night progressed. For everyone—apart from Bradley—it was anything but a Fun Friday.
“You couldn’t have known, and remember they took him out of school early. You were there at the usual time, and it’s not your fault that was too late.” Peter gave Alan a reassuring squeeze and then caught Keidan’s gaze with a silent plea for help.
“I should’ve been there. I could’ve stopped them. I can’t believe I was so fucking naïve!”
After an awkward silence Keidan jumped out of his chair. “I’ll be right back.”
“It’s going to be okay, Alan,” Peter whispered. “It’s going to be okay.”
Alan looked up. His face was pale and drawn. “What if it’s not? What am I going to tell Lisa? The boys normally speak to her on the phone about this time, and she’s going to wonder why Troy’s not here.”
“Why don’t you just tell her Troy’s with his grandparents? You don’t have to tell her they kidnapped him; she doesn’t need to know that. Not yet, at least.”
“Hopefully, never.” Alan slumped even further into the couch. “Why? Why did this have to happen?”
“I don’t know, but I’m sure it’ll all work out in the end.” Peter tried to sound more confident than he felt.
“How can you say that? You don’t know!” There was a spark of anger in Alan’s voice, but it was extinguished almost as soon as it appeared.
Keidan returned and held out a glass, one-third full of a brown liquid. “Nobody knows, Alan, but we have to have faith. Here, I think you need this.”
Alan looked at it blankly until Keidan forced it into his hand. “Drink up.”
Alan stared for a moment and then took a large gulp. He shivered for a moment and then handed the glass and remaining alcohol back. “Thanks, but I don’t think I should get drunk in case I need to go down to the station again.”
“A bit of scotch isn’t going to get you drunk, but it might help you relax enough that you’ll be able to breathe.” Keidan raised the glass towards Alan, a question in his eyes. “No? You sure?”
Alan shook his head, but a weak smile appeared on his face. “Thanks, anyway.” The expression faded. “What are they doing to him? He’s going to be scared.”
Peter gave Alan another squeeze, trying to convey his support and love through the touch. “They’re not going to hurt him, Alan. Despite what I think of them, they do love both Troy and Bradley. They won’t do anything to harm him.”
“Taking him away from his brother is going to harm him—and Bradley, too. You saw him at the police station; Bradley was screaming for his brother! And what sort of lies will they be telling Troy? That’s why we didn’t want them to have too much time alone with the boys. They’ll try to poison him against us!”
“It’ll be fine,” Peter said, though he felt the complete opposite. He had been worried about the same things, though he had hoped that Alan wouldn’t think of them, at least not until after Troy had been found. “Bradley’s more annoyed that Troy’s away with Nanny and Grandad without him than he is that his brother’s not here. As for lies, I’m sure Troy knows the truth. He knows we love him, and nothing else matters.”
Peter mentally silenced the small voice at the back of his mind that told him that he hadn’t always been loving towards the boys. It was too late to do anything about that.
* * *
Alan stopped pacing and turned to Peter. “I’m going to ring the station. Surely, they’ll have found something by now.”
Peter glanced at the clock. “They said they’d ring if they had any news. Come on, Alan, it’s just after eight in the morning.”
“That’s more than sixteen hours since we found out he was kidnapped! They’ve had to have learnt something!”
Peter weighed up the options and decided to give in. “Give them a call, but please don’t push them. They’re doing their job to the best of their abilities. Yelling at them won’t help.”
Alan slumped. “I just feel so helpless.”
Peter knew Alan had experienced a restless night—he’d had trouble sleeping, too—and suspected the mood swings were predominantly a consequence of tiredness. Even their attempt at lovemaking during the night had failed because of the stress. They had ended up spending half the night simply holding each other.
“What we all need is to get out and do something. Bradley’s got his playdate with Sam at eleven. While Sam’s parents are looking after him, why don’t we go see a movie or something?”
“I can’t! What if the police ring while I’m out?” Alan resumed his pacing, his gaze flitting from left to right, but it wasn’t obvious if he really saw anything.
Peter took a deep breath. He knew his job was to be the calm one of the pair. “You gave them your mobile number; if there’s no answer here, they’ll ring that number instead. You won’t miss the call, I promise you.”
“We can’t see a movie then. I can’t afford to have the phone off.”
“Okay, that was a bad idea. How about we have an early lunch and do some shopping instead? We need to restock the pantry, anyway, and something boring like that might help take your mind off things for a short while.”
“I don’t know...”
“I do. You need to do something. And on that subject, have you checked if Bradley’s wet his bed? It’s about time you took a turn washing his sheets.” Peter was hoping the mock-rebuke would help distract Alan.
Alan snorted, but gave Peter a wan smile. “Yeah, I did, and no he hasn’t. Since I was up during the night, I made him go to the toilet then.”
“When was that? I don’t remember you getting out of bed.”
“It was around two. You’d just drifted off to sleep, but my mind was still racing, so I checked on him.” Alan dropped his head. “I wanted to make sure he was still there...”
“Come on! There’s no way they’d try to break in to steal him. We would’ve heard them if they tried.”
Alan sighed. “That reminds me. We should move those boxes we put behind the doors. Otherwise Bradley may start asking why we put them there.” He gave a small laugh. “That’s one question I don’t think I can answer.”
Peter grinned, inwardly pleased that Alan’s mind appeared to have shifted tracks, if only slightly. “I’ll do that. However, since two o’clock was a long time ago, I suggest you check on him again, just in case. It’s about time he got up anyway so he can get ready for his playdate.”
Alan chuckled, though it was pale imitation of his usual laugh. “He’s got time. He’s not like you; he doesn’t take forever to get ready.”
Peter stuck his tongue out while working out what to do next to keep Alan occupied.
* * *
Steve turned down the radio as they turned off the freeway and headed north through Heidelberg on their way to Watsonia. The late-afternoon Saturday travel on the freeway was light, and they were making good time. “What was it again that Peter said about Alan?”
“Alan’s stressed out. Peter’s concerned he’s not acting rationally,” Keidan said.
Steve rolled his eyes. “As if that’s a surprise. If it were me, I’d be climbing the walls.”
“Peter didn’t tell him that we’re coming today. Alan keeps blaming himself for what’s happened, and Peter thinks having us show up out of the blue may help knock him out of the loop he’s in.”
“No word from the police?”
Keidan shook his head. “Alan’s rung several times and dropped in once, but no news.”
“Have they been listening to the radio?”
Keidan grimaced. “I hope not.”
The two guys fell silent. Both knew that Alan wanted the news of the kidnapping kept quiet, but the hourly news report they’d just heard said the police were searching for a missing six-year-old boy from Watsonia. No other details were mentioned, but it seemed that the news of the police search had been leaked to the media.
“Do we tell them?” Keidan asked a few minutes later.
“We should let Peter know and leave it up to him whether to tell Alan.” Steve frowned. “I hate keeping it from him, though. He doesn’t deserve any of this”
“Amen to that. I know I’m feeling helpless. I want to do something, but there’s nothing I can do. It’s in the hands of the police, and all we can do is wait and hope. If I’m feeling this bad, Alan must be feeling a hundred times worse.”
Fifteen minutes later, they pulled into the driveway and parked behind Peter’s car. Before Keidan could undo his seat belt, Steve reversed back out again.
“What’s wrong?” Keidan asked.
“I don’t want to block them in, just in case the police call and they need to go to the station. We’ll park in the street.”
Keidan nodded. “Good call.”
As the two approached the house, Steve returned to their earlier conversation. “I’ll keep Alan occupied when we get in, so you can get Peter alone and let him know about the news report.”
Keidan was slow to respond, causing Steve to give him a questioning glance. “I’ll do that, but I think we all need to watch the news tonight. If it’s reported, Alan should know about it; too many people will see that, especially if they include extra details like Troy’s name. If that happens, Lisa will probably find out what’s going on, and Alan will need to be prepared.”
Steve’s mouth twisted with distaste but conceded the point. “You’re right. Let’s hope it doesn’t make the news, though.”
Schooling his face into one more positive than he was feeling, Steve rang the bell and waited for the door to open. “Surprise!”
“Steve, Keidan, what are you doing here?”
Steve turned to Keidan. “Isn’t that nice? We came all the way out here to be with our friends, and they question why we showed up.”
“I didn’t mean it like that.” Alan stepped back and let them in. “I just didn’t expect to see you.”
Keidan followed Steve into the house, but instead of passing Alan he pulled him in for a hug. “You need us here. We want to be here. We’re not going to let you go through this without us.”
* * *
That night after the news—which Keidan had insisted on watching—Alan jumped at the sound of the phone ringing and rushed over, hoping that, this time, it would be the call he was waiting on. “Hello?”
“Mr. Thrush, I’m Detective Sergeant Collins from the Greensborough Police Station. I have some good news. Troy’s been found, and he’s on his way to your place now. He should be there in less than an hour.”
A heavy weight left Alan’s mind, and he almost jumped with joy. “Thank you! Thank you!” He held the phone away from his face. “Peter! Troy’s on his way home. He’ll be here soon!” Returning his attention to the caller, he asked the question for which he feared the answer. “Is he okay?”
Alan could hear the smile over the phone. “He’s fine. From what I was told, he was looking forward to having them race down the freeway with the siren going.”
Alan grinned at Peter, who had appeared at the door. “That’s good to hear. We’re looking forward to him tell us all about it.” Alan’s voice hardened. “What about the Lyntons?”
“They’re being kept in Bairnsdale. If you don’t mind, I’d like to organise a couple of things and then be with you when Troy arrives. I’ll need to get the report from the constables with him for our records here. They emailed us a copy, but I want the original.”
“Sure! No problem. We’ll see you soon.” After Alan hung up, he grabbed Peter and spun him around. “He’s coming home!”
Steve glanced up from where he was playing with Bradley and gave Alan a thumbs-up. Keidan pumped his fist. “Yes!”
Peter’s grin was as broad as Alan’s. “That’s great! Where’d they find him, and when is he going to get here?”
“Bairnsdale and in less than an hour. I’m just so relieved!”
Peter’s smile faltered. “An hour? Bairnsdale’s a couple of hours from here, if not more. Why didn’t they tell us sooner?”
Alan shrugged. “Who cares? Troy’s on his way, and the Lyntons are still in Bairnsdale. That’s all that’s important.”
“But still… They could have told us earlier.”
“It doesn’t matter.” Alan glanced at his watch and realised that it was almost 8pm. “He’s going to be tired, but he may be too wound up to sleep straight way. I’m going to get a snack and some milk for him. Why don’t you get his room ready so as soon as he’s calmed down, he’ll be able to go straight to bed?”
Peter smiled and gave Alan a peck on the lips. “Sure.”
Before Peter could get away, Alan grabbed his head and pulled him in for a long and thorough kiss. Then, grinning, Alan told him to go.
Steve looked at his young playmate. “I think it’s time for bed, Bradley.”
“But I’m not tired!” Bradley said before yawning.
“It’s still time for bed. Would you like me to read you a bedtime story? I’ve got a new story for you: Green Eggs and Ham.”
Bradley’s forehead wrinkled. “I thought eggs were white.”
“Why don’t we get you ready for bed, and then we can read the book to find out if eggs really can be green?”
It didn’t take Steve long to convince Bradley, and the young boy was soon in his bed with his eyes starting to close. Alan came in and gave his nephew a good-night kiss. He eased the bedroom door closed as he and Steve left so the noise from Troy’s arrival home wouldn’t wake up the young boy. Alan then gave Steve a hug. “Thank you. I really appreciate you and Keidan being here.”
“That’s what friends are for.”
Alan was declining Keidan’s suggestion of a celebratory drink, saying he wanted to wait until later, when the doorbell rang. Racing to the front door, he opened it to find two police officers, one middle-aged male and one younger female.
“That’s me.” Alan peered past them. “Is Troy with you?”
The male officer smiled. “He shouldn’t be too much longer. I’m Detective Sergeant Greg Collins—we spoke on the phone—and this is Constable Deidre Panaski. May we come in?”
“Of course! Sorry, I’m just anxious to see Troy again.” Alan stepped back and let them enter. Directing them to the living room, he asked, “Is there anything I can get you?”
“No, thank you. Is your partner home?”
“He’s just in the kitchen with a couple of friends.” Alan waved at the police officers to take a seat. Neither did so.
“Can we have a word with him, please?”
“Sure. Just wait here.” Alan turned, but Peter, Steve and Keidan were already entering the living room. “Peter, the police would like to see you.”
Peter looked up in surprise. “Me? What for?”
“Peter O’Gorman?” Detective Sergeant Collins asked.
“We would like you to accompany us back to the police station. We have a few questions we need to ask.”
All four guys were stunned. Peter recovered first. “What’s this about?”
The police officer sighed. “We also recommend you pack a bag to take with you, as you won’t be allowed to return.”
Alan broke in. “What do you mean? What’s going on?”
Detective Sergeant Collins grimaced. “At the insistence of his grandparents, Troy was questioned by a child psychologist in Bairnsdale. As a result of that interview, we are currently investigating the possibility that Troy Lynton has been molested, and we’d like Mr. O’Gorman to accompany us back to the station to help us with those enquiries. While that is being done, the Department of Human Services has instructed us to not allow either Troy or his younger brother, Bradley Lynton, to stay here if Mr. O’Gorman is present. I’m sorry, but until the matter is resolved, Mr. O’Gorman and the children will need to be separated.”
Peter’s mouth gaped open for second before he responded. “Am I under arrest?”
“Not at the moment, but I’d suggest contacting a lawyer. You may need one.”
Copyright Notice - Copyright ©February 2017 by Graeme.
The author copyrights this story and retains all rights. This work may not be duplicated in any form -- physical, electronic, audio, or otherwise -- without the author's express permission. All applicable copyright laws apply.
Disclaimer: All individuals depicted are fictional, and any resemblance to real persons is purely coincidental.
I would like to thank C James for providing feedback on the early drafts, and rec for his invaluable editing. I would also like to thank Ricky for that crucial final review before publication.