by Chris James
On to Chapter Two
Rated Mature 18+
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" ... the Parson Towne Mall will hold its annual Memorial Day sales this weekend," the announcer on the radio said. "We all know what that means don't we folks? Crowds of shoppers, packed parking lots and forty percent off on things we don't need ... "
Bill turned the radio off, focusing his attention back on the lanes of the Interstate. He was annoyed at the blatant consumerism that seemed to be everywhere this spring. Winter might be long gone, except on the snowy heights of the Rocky Mountains, but did they have to bring back all the blather that had plagued the airwaves over the Christmas season?
The beginning of summer was a favorite time of the year for most folks. It also heralded a busy season for lawyers because a lot of crimes were committed in the dark depressing days of winter. But Memorial Day was just the beginning of tourist season here in Parson County and would be followed by Pioneer Days and the Fourth of July.
The trip home from Colorado Springs seemed to get shorter every time he made it, but perhaps that was because his spirits were lifted when he visited Tim. Two years and three months ago the boy had been sentenced to Providence until he turned eighteen. That would soon be over and then ... yeah, what then?
From all Bill had seen of the place during the visits he was extremely impressed. For once the judicial system had made the right decision for a boy who was as much a victim of a horrible crime as any child Bill had ever seen. Murderers were rarely treated this well, but then the circumstances had convinced the judge to be kind.
Timothy Witherspoon had been the victim of a horrible man whom he shot and killed in self-defense, and then at the same time the boy was framed for the murder of his mother by a crooked sheriff. Bill had been part of the defense team and had faced the worst nightmare of his legal career with this case, there were sure to be others.
But Parson County had changed a lot since then. Travis Marsh had been elected Sheriff eighteen months ago and now had a detective and a real crime scene investigator in his department. The days of that heavy handed Sheriff Barnes were gone. That bastard was now an inmate up in Ravenswood Penitentiary for the rest of his days. From all reports he was leading a miserable life ... but he was just lucky to still have one.
It had taken a lot of effort to get Tim where he was today, and every bit of it was well conceived. Judges, lawyers, doctors and even the prosecutor had decided Tim's case was going to be a turning point in the way Parson County dealt with juvenile crimes of this nature. The rest of the state had seen the progress, studied the methods and were reviewing the need for changes. Nothing good happened fast ... except maybe for Tim.
The short, skinny boy of fifteen had blossomed into a handsome young man. He topped six foot now and his body had filled out with muscles thanks to Providence. Last year at this time Bill had attended the Pioneer Days celebration at the school where the boys got to show off their skills. Tim had climbed a fifty foot pole in less than thirty seconds, beating all the other boys in the competition.
It had taken Tim twenty-seven months to leave the tragedy of his life behind, and in less than a month he would be a free man ... emphasis on the word man. Eli Parker, the judge in Tim's case, had encouraged Bill to file as the boy's guardian when Tim turned sixteen. It was a legal maneuver to ease the sale of the house which Tim had inherited from his mother and to nominate someone to take care of the boy's affairs until his release.
Bill had never thought he would be in such a position. It felt like having a family and Tim made sure his lawyer was treated like a father. That moment came when Bill received the boy's first report card from the Providence school. The marks were good but the event astounded him so much that he sat in his apartment and cried.
Bill Metzger was gay and never thought he would play the role of father to anyone. But the empathy and affection Tim displayed on their visits felt so good, so right ... perhaps Eli understood the nature of the relationship better than anyone. But that wasn't completely true.
Dr. Evan Moore, head shrinker extraordinaire, had pointed the way when Tim's life needed focus. Bill had expected nothing else from the man who had been his closest confidant for years ... at least until now.
Bill had avoided telling Tim he was gay until one afternoon as they sat in the shade of the tall pines behind the Providence mess hall. During his initial evaluation with Dr. Moore before the case was resolved Tim had mentioned he might be gay. Bill had dreaded the moment when Tim would return to that subject, but he knew it would happen.
"When did you know you were gay?" Tim had asked out of the blue.
Bill's initial look of shock had slowly turned to a smile. "Clever boy, how long have you known?" He asked.
"A while ago, I saw the way you looked at Matt."
Matt Connors, a Sergeant with the State Police, and now ... what was he now? Boyfriend, lover? Bill had no idea the man was gay, and neither did anyone else, at least not officially. When Tim's case had been resolved they started spending time together. The boy had been the catalyst that brought Matt into his life and Bill was grateful for that.
The life of a lawyer in this town was chaotic, but being a police sergeant meant Matt was all over the place. The time they had together was precious and intense. It had been years since Bill had been in a relationship and Matt seemed to understand how hard it was. But just as Matt was a methodical cop he was also a dedicated lover when they found the time to be together.
Tim had been right. Bill had been looking at Matt with more than friendship in his eyes. Clever boy indeed and Bill was counting on Tim's discretion when he was released from Providence and moved in. It seemed like a logical decision to have Tim live in the apartment. He didn't have any place else to go.
There was still a little money in the bank from the sale of the house, but Tim would have to find a job. That would be a whole lot easier because the court was going to purge Tim's juvenile record, he would not be considered a felon. Living with Bill would be fine for now. At least the boy could go to college and choose a career.
And that brought Bill's thoughts full circle in regards to Tim. The youthful ambition to become a private investigator like Ed Avery was still there. Of course Tim had no training in that direction and perhaps the desire would change. Just because the boy admired Ed and the work he did was no cause to think he might follow through and become a PI. Maybe Ed could talk him out of it.
But Ed was the reason Bill was heading back to town. In all the years he had been friends with the man he'd never known Ed to show panic ... until now.
"I shot a deer out of season and I need a lawyer," Ed had said on the phone this morning. The last time Bill had heard their private signal for an emergency was when Ed had been shot while scouting a drug lab run by that crooked sheriff. Fortunately Ed was in one piece at the moment but something had him worried.
Bill had cancelled his lunch plans with Tim and hit the road. Ed would not discuss details on the phone because he had an abiding mistrust in the privacy of cellular communications. Some might consider that paranoid but Ed had spent years in the military police as an investigator and knew how the real world worked in the intelligence business.
The only way Bill was going to find out what was going on was to meet Ed face to face, and that would happen in about twenty minutes at the rate he was driving. They were going to meet in Bill's apartment since Ed had mentioned it might cause problems if they met in a public place.
Bill accepted that and at least if he was home then he could shower and change clothes. His visits to Providence always involved some rugged outdoor activity, especially if he wanted to be close to Tim. After several visits his face became familiar to Grant Scholtz, the founder and leader of the boy's training program.
"We don't get many lawyers coming up here to visit," Grant had said. "Tim must be one lucky kid."
"He's special," Bill replied.
"They're all special otherwise I wouldn't be here."
Bill had to agree with that. Grant was committed to the program, to his boys and to the staff he held to high standards. From the name Providence Bill had thought there might be a religious aspect to the school, but it wasn't like that at all. The only deity in evidence was nature and the boys learned to embrace the great outdoors.
Some of them would move out of the school and into training as forest rangers or fire fighters. Grant had contacts at many levels of government and in private nature conservation. In many aspects the school was like a boot camp and demanded a lot of the boys. But they learned to love it and to give back to the bounty nature provided.
He pulled into the parking lot behind the office building and saw Ed's Jeep parked in the visitor's slot. Bill climbed the stairs to his apartment above the legal offices and opened the door. Only then did Ed exit his vehicle as did three others, each of them making their way up the stairs and into the apartment. Ed shut the door and sighed.
Bill looked at the oldest of the unfamiliar trio and they shook hands. The man was about his age, late-thirties at a guess. But the other two were younger. A boy of about eighteen, blond, blue-eyed, handsome, and carrying a rather large backpack. The younger boy was perhaps fourteen and he had the same skin tones and dark hair coloring as the man. Must be his son, Bill thought.
"Bill, this is Andrew Nayef and his son, Mitch," Ed said. "And this young man is Brian Dunlop, BD to his friends."
"Gentlemen ... won't you come in and take a seat," Bill said.
They moved towards the living room and Ed clapped a hand on Bill's shoulder.
"BD has a story to tell and you have got to hear it. I think he needs a lawyer," Ed said.
"And the other two?"
"Andy is a private investigator like me, only his territory is in Denver. But let them talk because you are not gonna believe what they have to say."
Bill hadn't had this many people in his apartment since the last Christmas party. He watched Andy take a look around while the boys invaded the couch.
"Nice place," Andy said. "I love these old buildings."
Polite conversation Bill thought as he slid into the kitchen and put on a pot of coffee. "Yeah, I like it," He called over his shoulder. "My office is right downstairs. Boys, there is juice and water in the refrigerator, help yourselves."
"Ed says you're a criminal lawyer. I think what we have here is a crime in progress," Andy said as Bill returned to the living room. "I'll let BD tell you his side of the story but first I think you need to know how we all met."
"A good place to start," Bill said.
"Like Ed I work for myself," Andy said.
"Then like Ed you probably have a military background?" Bill asked.
"Can you tell me about it? Ed always dodges that question so I think all he did was sit in a bar during his military service."
"I was in the Navy ... Intelligence, the Second Gulf War," Andy said. "I speak Arabic and they found that useful. My parents are Saudi, but I was born here.
"I would love to tell Mitch about those years of service, but much of it is still classified. Let me preface my marriage story by saying that I'm a gay man. I had the understanding early on in life but never acted on it. The Navy might have been a place to explore those feelings but I didn't want to wreck my career."
Andy stopped to look at his son and the boy nodded. What was about to be said was not new information, Bill was sure, but the story was probably emotional for father and son.
"My relationship with Mitch's mother began slowly after I left the Navy and went back to college. What developed was all about expectations, most of them her's. Somewhere along the line I tried to meet her desires and I'm still not sure why. We moved in together and were married when she became pregnant. The parents on both sides were thrilled and then extremely supportive when Karen lost that first child in the third month.
"Mitch was born the following year and I discovered that even gay men make good fathers. But I never got the chance to tell her because about the time he was three she woke up one morning with a splitting headache. It was so bad I called for an ambulance. She died on the way to the hospital, an aneurism in her brain.
"Mitch was just a little boy and his mother was gone." Andy paused and took his son's hand. The emotions were there but no tears, this was a story they had shared many times and all that was left was sadness.
"That was all eleven years ago, in a different lifetime. Mitch has grown into a fine young man whose intelligence allowed me to come out to him. I remember the expression on his face was priceless as he listened to me explain, but of course the little brat had known all along."
We certainly have that in common, Bill thought. He liked this man and wondered what kind of criminal issue was at stake here.
"We support one another and I think every gay man should have a son," Andy said. "They keep you honest and focused. But I think you already know that, Bill. Ed tells me you have adopted a boy who will soon get out of confinement."
"I may adopt him, I'm his guardian now, but the choice will be his," Bill said.
"I think that's why we're here, because you understand how important it is for a boy to have a father who cares. But Mitch isn't the young man with a problem here, BD is. I know I've dominated this conversation so far but only so you would know how committed I am to fixing this situation.
"It's a real mess, I know that much. But BD ran away from home several weeks ago and I found him on the street in Denver. Another homeless kid, I thought, but I was wrong. He might be homeless at the moment but he isn't helpless. You see, his family is out to kill him and we have to put a stop to that."
Ed got up and poured the coffee while Mitch brought back two bottles of water and handed one to BD.
"My turn, I guess," BD said. "Let me preface what I have to say with my thanks to Andy and Mitch. Without them I'm afraid my father's people would have found me by now, but it seems they did find Monica."
"Monica is?" Bill asked.
BD sighed. "A dear friend, perhaps my dearest. She has supported me over the years when things got rough. When I left home I went to her, but that was a mistake. My father's people knew about her, they seem to know about everything.
"Andy had no idea I was gay when he found me sitting on the curb outside the McDonalds. He was acting like a parent with his concern and that's something I'm not used to feeling. But I had been hiding out in Monica's basement since I left home and when Andy took me in I had to tell her I was okay.
"I called her cell phone but it was turned off. This is a seventeen year old girl mind you and she never turns her phone off, so I called her mother at the house. It seems Monica had gone to the mall looking for me and didn't come back.
"Her mother was reluctant to talk to me, and then told me two men had appeared at the door and identified themselves as cops. They flashed badges but she didn't get a good look at them. Andy said that was suspicious because the police always want to make sure you know who they are.
"But this wasn't about Monica. These guys were looking for me. Of course Mrs. Bolton didn't know where I was, she didn't even know I had been in her basement, so she denied seeing me. But Monica didn't come home and when it got dark Mrs. Bolton called the police. Now she blames me for her daughter's disappearance, and she's right. I think my father's men have her."
"They're using her as bait to bring BD back, or at least locate him, I'm sure of that," Andy said.
"I don't get it," Bill said. "Why do they want you, is it something you did?"
BD nodded. "I need to show you something." With that BD pulled his backpack open and removed a large laptop. A MacBook Pro, a very expensive device for a young man to carry around. BD noticed Bill's look and smiled.
"Andy gave me that same look. I didn't steal this, it's mine. I use it for my school work most of the time. But I downloaded some video that shows the setup my father runs ... "
"And just who is your father?" Bill asked.
"You've probably heard of him. Bishop Ernest Tilden ... the man everyone loves to hate."
Bishop Tilden ran the Redemption of God Holiness Church. Bill would certainly agree that everyone in their right mind hated the man. A true nest of vipers if there ever was one. The members of that church hated anyone who wasn't like them.
Tilden believed that God spoke directly to him and those words from above directed the faithful in his congregation. He pontificated about that on Sunday mornings during his televised church services.
The church had a mega-facility, a cathedral, built with the donations of hundreds of thousands of believers across the country. Tilden's broadcasts were carried on radio and cable television stations in dozens of cities and towns. Bill would have declared the Bishop a laughable religious aberration except for one thing. Tilden had openly stated that all gays should face execution.
"Damn," Bill said.
"Yes, he's a flaming asshole. And when his spies told him I was gay he just about lost his mind, if he ever had one. Are you familiar with transformational ministries?"
"That sounds familiar," Bill said.
"Well he supports several of those ex-gay movements. So when I read the mail he sent to one of his buddies about how he was going to commit me to their facility I left in a hurry."
"You read his mail?" Bill asked.
BD smiled. "Among other things. Here, let me show you."
BD booted up the laptop and then explained what they were about to see. He set the device on the coffee table and everyone gathered around to watch.
"I want you to see this little video clip from my father's Sunday service a few months ago. I recorded it live and it's uncut, but the broadcast they made that day was edited so that no one saw this segment."
"How did you manage to record this?" Bill asked. "Did anyone see you do it?"
"No, I was alone in the choir loft that day. I set my webcam under the railing where no one could see it and kept my laptop on the floor. I had no idea the service was going to take such an odd turn, but I was bored and this was just supposed to be some fun.
"The service is really long, but this segment is only about three minutes of time towards the end. This is what I call my father's hands on portion of the show where the congregation gets to approach the altar with gifts for God and he speaks directly to them.
"His security guys are right there, although they look like ushers. They wear blue suits, same color as the prayer attendants and the real ushers, except they have black shirts on under the jacket. Let me show you."
He keyed up a digital file and the video immediately began to run. The image showed the interior of the cathedral with hundreds of people sitting in rows before a raised platform. There was lots of glass, broad stretches of carpet, but little ornamentation except for the profusion of potted plants.
At the rear of the platform stood a huge cross made of laminated wood. It was big enough to crucify Jesus and all his disciples at the same time, Bill decided. It certainly dwarfed the small group of people who sat in chairs across the altar platform.
And there was Bishop Tilden, standing before the congregation and exhorting them to do whatever he said God wanted.
"You want to hear what he's saying?" BD asked.
"Do we have to?" Mitch said.
"No, it's only the same crap he always spouts. It isn't necessary for what you're about to see."
The Bishop walked down to the railing that separated the altar from the congregation. There was already a short line of people standing quietly and awaiting his approach. Two men in blue jackets approached and stood back several yards on either side of the Bishop, and then two more appeared outside the railing.
Bill could see from BD's description that these guys were security, the men wore black shirts. The camera had zoomed in on the Bishop and the small group of people awaiting him. At first Bill wondered why BD had chosen this section, and then he noticed a nervous looking man second in line.
"That's Willy Perkins, a free-lance journalist," BD said. "He's written some negative things about my father, but watch."
The Bishop spoke with an elderly lady, held her hands and then touched her head in blessing. She handed him an envelope which he passed to one of the ushers. Next up was this man Perkins and the Bishop nodded to the man as the security men moved in. The guards came in close beside Perkins and that seemed to startle the Bishop.
Bill could see the earplugs and the connecting wire snaking down beneath the collar of these men. But what fascinated him more was the slight bulge that gave away the presence of a gun under their jackets. They were armed in church?
Perkins didn't get out three words before he was seized and quick marched off towards the side of the cathedral. The Bishop quickly turned to the next person in line as if nothing had happened, and his two remaining guards slid back to their watchful positions.
"So what was that?" Bill asked. "Were they afraid that man was going to assault your father?"
"I would love to talk to that reporter," BD said, "but he's disappeared."
"I'm sure something bad happened to him. He has a blog that discusses politics and religion, and his commentary interested me. He was consistently updating it every few days and then just stopped. Other people who were reading are worried, their comments lead me to believe he stopped posting just after this incident at the cathedral."
"That doesn't mean ... " Bill began to say
"No, I have proof," BD said and then he shrugged. "I'll show you something but you can never tell anyone you saw it. This is the product of an illegal search so you know what that means."
Bill nodded. "I'm sure if it's vital for a prosecution the police can obtain it legally."
BD swiveled the laptop so he could type in the words 'gay for Jesus,' and then smiled. "My little joke," he said.
The laptop shifted gears, linked up to the Wi-Fi network in the office downstairs, and went onto the Web. A new desktop image came up asking for a password. BD was now online and he typed in a series of characters and numbers. The program moved onwards and began dumping a file onto the hard drive.
"You have a secondary storage somewhere online," Bill said. "Smart move."
"Wouldn't you?" BD asked. "Everything here is so top secret that God's Chosen would freak out if they knew I had any of this. But maybe they do and that's why they're after me."
"God's Chosen?" Andy asked.
"My father's minions, the secret ruling council of their Christian militia. I have dozens of memos and minutes of all their meetings. There's even a list of politicians they own and all the details about the militia. They're the most dangerous guys in the state."
"How did you get all this stuff?"
"It wasn't easy, it took time. Accessing that much information at one time would have probably flagged a security alert. I spent weeks doing it only ten or fifteen minutes at a time. I was using my father's passwords and security always knew where he was so I had to be careful."
"This security apparatus seems very sophisticated, who runs it?" Bill asked.
"The militia is led by a man named Joab, but I don't think that's his real name. In the Old Testament of the Bible, Joab was King David's military commander."
Eleven file tabs appeared on the screen and BD called up one of them. There were dozens of documents in the file with labels like 'action memo' and 'GC eyes only.' BD selected one with a date stamp only two weeks old.
"This is the one we need to see," BD said.
From Joab, David's Fortress
To Council members
Action successful. Another sinner sent to hell. All traces of contact eliminated. Alfa level search of electronic data regarding Perkins reveals no further details to concern us.
Another victory for God's Chosen. To the glory of the Kingdom.
Bill stared at the page for a moment with all kinds of thoughts tumbling through his mind. BD was right, these people were dangerous.
"I've seen enough for the moment."
BD nodded and deleted the files from his hard drive. Bill didn't know where the boy kept them hidden, but they were out there somewhere. Cloud technology being what it was there were millions of places BD could have these documents hidden. He was one smart boy.
Bill looked at his watch and saw it was nearly two o'clock. He was supposed to be downstairs in the office, but that wasn't going to happen.
"I need to call my office," Bill said. "Oh, is anybody hungry?"
"We stopped on the way here," Ed said.
"Figures. I can hold out until dinner and we can have that right here if you'd like. I do have some further questions to ask, if that's all right?"
"I know this is a lot of information coming at you pretty fast but because the things you've just seen were illegally obtained I thought we ought to get a legal opinion," Andy said.
"Where are you staying at the moment?" Bill asked.
"Ed booked us rooms at a small motel. I don't think the Bishop's men have tracked us down but it pays to be careful."
"Oh shit," BD said, looking at his computer screen.
"What's the matter?" Mitch asked.
"I have an email from Monica."
"What does she say?" Bill asked.
"I can't open it ... there's an attachment. If the militia has her they could have sent this and attached a tracer to it. I open this and they will be able to find out where I am, or at least what cell tower is feeding me this signal."
"Can you open the mail on another computer?" Bill asked.
"Sure, but they will know where it is," BD said.
"That won't matter," Bill said. "If anything it will only serve to confuse them. Let me make a phone call. A friend of mine is supposed to be in town this afternoon and we can use his computer."
Bill opened his cell phone and hit the number 2 on speed dial.
"Hello, Bill, so you're back in town."
"Hi, Matt, where are you?"
"Just over talking to Travis at the Sheriff's office. What's up?"
"Can you ride over to the apartment, I need to use the computer in your car," Bill said.
"Official police business I hope," Matt replied.
"It's about to be. We just got an email from a missing girl and it's probably from her kidnappers."
"I'll be right there."
On to Chapter Two"
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