by Chris James
Back to Chapter Eleven
Rated Mature 18+
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Summer was over, and the fall air around Parson County was filled with the promise of another cold winter. In the course of the last four months a lot of things had occurred that would affect the lives of the Tilden/Dunlop family, and the relationships in the new Metzger family.
The FBI had concluded its investigation into the bombing and the God's Chosen militia. The wrangling between state and federal officials over the charges involved had become a footnote in the news media. They were instead focused on the gay marriage debate.
Although Colorado recognized civil unions between gay couples, the marriage issue had been off the table for nearly eight years because of a state constitutional amendment. Gay rights activists were incensed that gay couples did not receive the same tax benefits as heterosexual couples. Marriage equality was in demand but the legislature was not listening.
At the July Fourth picnic west of Fort Carson, which was attended by a slightly larger group of gay men this year, Matt and Bill announced they would join in a civil union. Bill had become one of the lawyers behind the gay marriage initiative in the state and hoped one day his commitment to Matt would be blessed with a marriage license.
They had decided not to fly off to California and seek a license there but to stay home and carry on the fight until Colorado came to its senses. Tim had been thrilled with the idea of having two fathers. He petitioned the court for his adoption by both men just after his eighteenth birthday. His last name was now officially Metzger.
But just as summer brought joy to Bill and family it also brought sadness in the form of a funeral for Thomas Bonetta. State Police from six adjoining states sent delegations of officers who lined the sidewalk in front of the church. The parade of mourners stretched for several miles on the way to the cemetery and blocked traffic all over Denver.
T-Bone would be missed by family and friends. His death became the focus of the Governor and the prosecutor in the Victor bombing. The trial of Barry Tilden and seven co-conspirators in the militia was due to begin in September and could run for months.
BD was now living with Tim because the issue with his family had yet to change, but it would. He became aware of just how different when the FBI came to call and invited him to a meeting at the Federal Courthouse in Denver. The feds agreed to his stipulation that Tim and his lawyer accompany him.
By now both boys were full time students at the University and this meeting meant taking a day off from classes. BD was not as concerned since his classes for an IT degree were easier to ditch for the day. Tim's program in forestry would be harder to make up, but the Dean was very agreeable.
Bill was concerned about the FBI's understanding of the events that took place in Victor and at Castlewood Lake. The involvement of Boze and his team had never been in the news and a lot of that was due to the actions of the State Police. But with their resources the FBI must have some knowledge of the truth and he didn't want BD to get caught lying to officials.
The agent in charge of the investigation was Martin Burns, an intense man who had been the face of the government in the news about this event. As the AIC, Burns stood when they entered the conference room on the second floor of the Federal Building and shook hands with Bill, BD and Tim.
"This is John Barton, and Melissa Wright of the Denver office," Burns said. "We also have Alan Parks with Homeland Security over there and Captain Willows with the State Police I believe you already know."
Bill acknowledged Willows and the others, happy to see a familiar face. They all took a seat around the conference table and Burns made an opening statement.
"Our investigation has wandered far afield of the event that took place in Victor. I want Brian to know we're grateful for the documentation he provided to Captain Willows. We are aware that the information is tainted by the illegal way Brian obtained it, but since then we have subpoenaed and found the material on the computers of the militia so it is available to our prosecution team.
"So far we understand the church and family relationship to the illegal activities and one thing stands out. That would be Brian's total lack of involvement in the church and any knowledge of the militia's activities until the kidnapping of his friend Monica Bolton."
Thank goodness, Bill thought, BD was off the hook.
"It is now plain that Barry Tilden aka. Joab manipulated the church funds to create his militia and purchased the materials necessary to produce the explosive device. I suppose by now you know that State Police Lieutenant Thomas Bonetta was killed in the explosion and that upped the ante for Barry Tilden's criminal charges.
"The Attorney General of the United States has yielded to the Governor of Colorado in his desire to prosecute Mr. Tilden here in the state. Murder, kidnapping, terrorism will in all probably lead to one thing, the death penalty."
Burns sighed. "There hasn't been an execution in this state for sixteen years but I'm sure the State's Attorney will seek it. Now as for the other militia personnel, seven of them were involved in the bomb plot and face extensive prison time. The investigation has turned up drugs, illegal weapons and assorted felony charges for them. The rest of the militia just seems to be ignorant part-time members who had little to do with the core group.
"There was one bright spot in all of this. Monica Bolton told us Douglas Parnell was very cooperative when she was released. The boy was able to give us a picture of events prior to the bombing, but he had no idea that Mr. Tilden's close associates were actually constructing a bomb.
"Ms. Bolton says he was on the verge of releasing all three of the kidnapping victims when the police arrived. I'm pretty sure there was more to this than State Police involvement, but Captain Willows doesn't feel comfortable talking about the raid on the compound or the events following the bombing."
Burns smiled. "Would any of you like to tell us what really happened?"
"My client had nothing to do with events at the compound," Bill said.
"I understand that," Burns said. "Now Mr. Parks over there says he got a call from an anonymous source which said some contract CIA operatives were involved in taking down the militia. Knowing the government I seriously doubt if the intelligence agencies will be forthcoming with any further information on their personnel, so that avenue is shut down.
"Civilian militias can become very dangerous individuals as this episode proves which leaves us with the reasoning behind such actions. The seizure of Mr. Tilden's computer records gave us all sorts of information. Brian, did you know your brother kept a diary?"
"No sir, it wasn't in the system I discovered," BD said.
"Right you are, he kept it on disk in his office and nowhere else. It was very revealing and contained a lot of information about your family that perhaps might interest you. None of it will be germane to the court proceedings so I made a copy of it for your personal use."
With that Burns pulled a disk from his coat pocket and slid it across the table to BD.
"It might give you some insight to your brother's thinking and the level of hatred he carried in his mind. I've shown it only to our staff psychologist who doesn't think it reveals enough evidence for an insanity defense. But of course Mr. Tilden's lawyers will be given a copy of all the records. I'm sure you understand that, Counselor."
"Yes, sir," Bill replied. "I know that Brian has been puzzled over his brother's decision to commit these crimes."
"Motive is always something we strive to understand, although in many crimes we never reach a conclusion. But just how deeply this family was involved will eventually come to light. Brian's sister now lives in Chicago and has her own life apart from the family. Neil, his older brother, has been off doing missionary work in Nicaragua for the past three years so he's not one of our suspects."
"What about my father?" BD asked.
"I was coming to that," Burns said. "He certainly allowed Barry Tilden access to everything the church did. Our search warrants included the church property and we found several pieces of medical equipment that had their radioactive sources removed.
"That ties in with the purchase records and the checks were signed by Ernest Tilden. As to whether or not he knew the purchases were a fraudulent means of obtaining material for a dirty bomb I can't tell you. What do you think?"
"I think he trusted Barry far too much," BD said. "My father has become a hateful man who uses other people for his personal gain. I think he has subverted the faith he so radically espouses to hurt other people. I'm sure the State Police informed you of the incident with Willy Perkins I reported to them. The image my father projected in that video shows how confused he was about what was happening. I'm sure that was Barry's doing."
"We haven't found any evidence of foul play in Mr. Perkins disappearance, but we're still looking," Burns said.
"You may not be able to prosecute my father for any of this, but I hope the people in his church do," BD said. "They need to know what kind of man runs their church and to what purpose their money has been subverted.
"In time Ernest Tilden will cease life on this planet and have to face the judgment of his God. I want to remind him of that, to show him that he faces eternal damnation by his own hand for the things he's done in the name of Jesus.
"Isaiah 40:3…The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness. Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. That is the call to all those who preach in God's name, and what has my father done? He is the shepherd who has starved his flock of the truth and borne false witness in the name of the Lord. Oh I know the words that will rain down fire and brimstone in his heart, he taught me too well."
There was silence around the table until Burns finally cleared his throat. "I think you missed your calling."
"No, I'm an atheist. There is no God to hurt me, but my father suffers under the delusion of a higher power and that is his weakness. You want to know if he was involved in any of this and if I can I'll find out for you."
"Do that," Burns said. "The prosecutor has a considerable body of evidence about the activities of your father's church and is now working with the Grand Jury to consider charges against him. If they indict him the assets of the church will be frozen until there's a trial and judgment is made.
"We're aware that your mother has her own personal funds and won't need his support. I guess my final question is to your lawyer. Mr. Metzger, what will your client do now? How will he support himself?"
"I had considered a lawsuit against the Tilden estate, but by the time the court grants my client anything the legal costs for his father will probably produce a negative balance. But Brian is a resourceful young man and he has a lot of support in the community. I don't believe he will suffer."
"I certainly hope not," Burns said. "I believe we're done here for the moment. We'll be back in touch, Counselor. Thank you all for coming."
The drive back to Parson County was filled with silence. BD sat in the back with the CD case in his hand and Bill could only wonder what thoughts were running through his head. Tim had said nothing during the FBI meeting. Perhaps he was thinking back to his own confrontation with the law.
They arrived home and Bill immediately went down to the office to catch up on work. He had several minor cases pending and he knew Sonny would leave him a stack of reading material. BD had opened his laptop and inserted the disk, almost dreading what he would find.
"What have you got there?" Tim asked.
"Newspaper articles from the Rocky Mountain News," BD said. "Old stuff from back in the forties."
"Barry collected this stuff?"
OUTLAW GANG BROUGHT TO JUSTICE
April 23, 1949. The Victor Gold Mining Company announced today that the outlaw miners who had been sabotaging their operations have been caught. President Andrew Stubbs informed the press that Teller County Sheriff Norman Short had identified the ringleader of this notorious gang.
"Following years of dynamite attacks against mining operations the names of the perpetrators finally became known to us," Short said. "Leading this group was Zachariah Tilden, a long time foreman for the mining company who was dismissed on theft allegations."
"We had enough information from various sources that Tilden and his confederates were smuggling ore from several of the mine shafts," President Stubbs said. "Our security men caught two of the miners in the act and they confessed that Tilden had told them how to do it".
When asked how much gold was smuggled out of the mine Stubbs refused to answer, just saying that it was hundreds of ounces. Following a brief shootout with Tilden near his Victor home, mining officials had to notify the sheriff when Tilden and several companions escaped into the mountains.
It seems a large manhunt driven by mine security men took place the following day and Tilden was cornered in a shack near Cow Mountain. By the time the sheriff arrived the outlaws had been captured and hung by the neck. Governor Billy Knous has refused to prosecute the mining company employees who he says were just doing their jobs.
"Can you believe that?" BD said. "They had a lynching in 1949 right here in Colorado. This is not the story my father told us."
"He lied, probably because the truth is too hard for him to bear," Tim said.
"I can see where Barry's anger came from, look at the following headline."
OUTLAW'S FAMILY RUN OUT OF TOWN
May 14, 1949. The family of Zachariah Tilden was run out of Victor yesterday. Members of the small mining community ransacked the family home on 6th Street and forcibly moved the Tilden family into the gutter.
Mary Tilden and her young son Matthew were physically carried into the street by a mob of miners as the house was destroyed. Teller County deputies stood by and did nothing to stop the crowd from tearing the house apart until it was unlivable.
Only the appearance of Reverend Thomas and several members of the Baptist Church saved Mrs. Tilden and her young son from bodily harm. Clutching only a few of their possessions the Reverend placed the family in his car and drove them away from the scene.
The mob shouted and cursed the young woman for the destruction her husband had brought upon the mining operations. Zachariah Tilden, along with Andrew Stebbins and Earl Cummins, were lynched by mining employees just three weeks before this latest incident.
"So this is why your grandfather came to Castle Rock," Tim said. "I wonder how Barry learned the truth. This certainly is motive enough to explain his anger."
"I suppose the bomb was meant to shut down the mine, but he might have been targeting the Governor as well as the town. You notice there was never any proof offered that my great-grandfather stole from the mine, just the statements of informants.
"The mine owners held a lot of power over the town, the county and the state. No one in authority investigated the lynching and I'm sure they were told not to. I don't think Barry is the only one who is angry, just look at the way your father acts."
BD shut the lid on his laptop and stared at the wall until Tim embraced him from behind.
"You're nothing like the rest of your family," He said. "I guess that makes me the lucky one."
BD turned his head and they kissed. Their relationship had evolved over the summer into a commitment.
"I feel lucky," BD said. "You stopped Barry…" And there he paused. The days of Tim remembering the past events in his young life were gone. Killing his step-father no longer made him wonder at the finality of his decision. Stan had deserved what he got, BD understood that.
"What were you thinking when you shot Barry?" BD asked.
"I was thinking that he was about to kill someone I really cared about and I couldn't let that happen. If I had been holding a real rifle with bullets he would have been dead, but I'm glad it didn't turn out that way."
"You're a lover not a killer," BD said.
Tim smiled. "I like the sound of that."
BD stood and slid his arms around Tim's waist. "We have classes tomorrow…back to the grind. Ed will be here this weekend and so will Matt. We may not get another quiet afternoon for days."
"I hear you," Tim said, and began unbuttoning BD's shirt. "We need a little quality time before Bill finishes up downstairs."
BD was still a needy boy, and nothing proved it more than when they were in bed together. Even in sleep BD clung to him as if he was afraid Tim might disappear, but that wasn't about to happen.
Tim remembered what it was like to be needy…he'd grown up that way. But Bill, and now Matt, had calmed those fears of being alone. That is what had driven him to shoot Barry. He would not accept being alone again, but he could not tell BD that.
And so now they lay down for love, secure in the knowledge that this is what they were meant to share…to be. Lovemaking had become ritual as bodies melted together and minds engaged in pleasing one another. What had once been wild discovery was now carefully practiced. There was no finer expression of their commitment.
Tim might have once wondered what BD would do with his life and then he realized what he was asking was really about himself. Having endured the hate of family for being gay BD had persevered, how could Tim do any less? Bill seemed to understand that Tim had made a choice and he was all right with that. The good father accepts his son's desires and ideals, and Bill was more than good.
Young bodies brought such energy to feed their desires, and after sharing they lay back in wonder at how right this all seemed.
"I was proud of you this morning," Tim said. "The way you spoke up to that FBI man was pure BD."
BD laughed. "I think I shocked him."
"He's right…you did miss your calling."
"No…no…no, I would never preach what I didn't believe in," BD said. "The Bible has corrupted as many men as it has saved because humans are flawed. I understand the teachings of Jesus but he was terribly naïve. I think of him as the original hippie, the purveyor of peace and love at a time when none of that was accepted."
"Karl Marx saw religion as the obstacle to true happiness…the opiate of the masses," Tim said.
BD laughed. "You heard that in class, didn't you?"
"No, actually it was something Grant told us at Providence. His point was that religion is not the answer for all people and those who say it is will do their utmost to oppress the non-believers."
"True. That old 'either with us or against us' that Islam is now espousing. I'm an atheist for a reason because I see religion as a waste of human energy. All those people who gave money to my father will now find out it was used to build a bomb. How can his church stand after a revelation like that?"
"He doesn't own it, their money built it," Tim said. "Won't they just get someone new to run the place?"
"In some ways I hope they do. I don't think begging for forgiveness will work for him. God didn't intend for the money to end up killing someone. I still have to confront him, you know."
"You said that to the FBI. Would you really stand up in front of his congregation and denounce him?" Tim asked.
"I'd love to…"
But he never got the chance. The Grand Jury indicted Ernest Tilden for providing material support to the God's Chosen militia and their terrorist activities. His arrest was all over the news and the Bishop was confined to a cell in the Federal courthouse in Denver.
By September the trial for Barry and the others had just begun when the lawyers for the defense startled the court by announcing Barry was going to plead guilty. His plea was accepted and Barry was returned to prison to await his sentencing while the trial for the other seven began.
Bill was busy as ever when the phone on his desk rang and Candice announced that he had a call on line one.
"Who is it?" Bill asked.
"She wouldn't tell me," Candice said.
It figures, Bill thought. He wasn't mean spirited but Candice had been with the firm for over three years and still didn't understand her role as a receptionist. Bill had tried to discuss her employment with Tom Isakson only to discover the woman was Tom's niece and in desperate need of a job.
"Put her through," Bill said.
"Mr. Metzger? This is Evelyn Dunlop…Brian's mother."
Knock me down with a feather, Bill thought. "Hello, Mrs. Dunlop."
"I'm trying to reach Brian and the State Police suggested you as the contact person. I understand you're his lawyer."
"I am…I was. He isn't in need of a lawyer at the moment. He's in class at the University today. Is there a message I can give him?"
"Yes, I'll give you my cell phone number, he needs to call me."
"Is everything all right?" Bill asked.
She hesitated for a moment and then Bill heard her sigh. "His brother Neil would like to see him, Mr. Metzger. I know this has been a difficult time for Brian and Neil would like to make amends."
"And what about you, Mrs. Dunlop?"
"I'm afraid Brian gave up on me a long time ago…and rightfully so. This business with his father and Barry is just more than I can bear to talk about. I'm leaving the country and I won't be back to stand in the way of Brian's future. But Neil has all the details, make sure Brian calls me." And with that she hung up.
What details, Bill wondered? She didn't sound like she was ready to reconcile her relationship with her gay son, but then BD hardly ever mentioned his mother. The brother was another issue…and he wanted to make amends, whatever that meant.
BD was home from classes by three o'clock, but Tim wasn't due until five. When Bill gave him the phone number he stared at it for a while and then smiled, reaching for his cell phone. Bill left him alone for the call.
Tim was home at five and ten minutes later he was at the door to Bill's office.
"BD and I are going to Castle Rock, we might be late," He said.
"Yes, they have to meet."
"There are some hard feelings in that family…I'm glad you'll be there," Bill said.
The house in Castle Rock looked old, but that was to be expected as BD's grandfather had once lived here. The grandmother was long gone, but BD's mother had kept the place up. This is what BD had once called home and where he had been raised. They pulled in the driveway just as darkness set in.
Tim's first impression of Neil was as an older version of BD. Stronger perhaps, well-tanned from his life as a South American missionary. He was standing in the front doorway and BD didn't hesitate to step up and shake his hand, but Neil hugged him in return.
Tim was introduced as Brian's partner and Neil smiled as they shook hands. Then they followed him into the house.
"Mom is out at the lake retrieving her property. The police have finally allowed her inside the house out there," Neil said. "She leaves for Africa next week."
"Africa? Why is she going there?" BD asked.
"She's joined a mission, says it's her calling. I can't argue with that."
They walked through the house and sat down at the kitchen table. Nothing had changed, BD noted. The kitchen was where all the family meetings had been held and it seems Neil remembered that. BD watched his brother fold his hands and silently pray before he looked up.
"I understand your reticence about religion, Brian. I don't think I could have endured what Dad and Barry dished out towards you, and that's one of the reasons I left," Neil said. "But I am back and at the urging of the church elders I am going to replace Dad in the pulpit at the cathedral."
BD nodded, and Tim noticed he didn't seem surprised. "Is this in atonement for the family sins?"
Neil smiled. "Always the rabble rouser, aren't you? But no, I went to South America and found God…the real God. In my house of the Lord there will be room for everyone no matter the color of their skin or their sexual orientation."
"That's refreshing, thank you," BD said. "I hope the congregation agrees with you."
"Oh they will. Right now they're terrified that the cathedral will have to be closed and they blame Dad. The church will survive but my concern is for this family. Our mother may take years to come to her senses, but I have more sense than that. I am my brother's keeper and I intend to live up to that."
Neil reached in his pocket and pulled out an old leather wallet. Carefully he opened it and extracted an ancient piece of heavy paper. The fold lines looked worn and there were a few holes, but Neil unfolded it carefully and laid it on the surface of the table.
"What's this?" BD asked.
"Something Barry's been looking for only I had it with me the past five years. He found a mention of it in one of Grandpa's letters but I found the wallet first and kept it hidden. It's never good when a man lusts after something so much and Barry is a man with many lusts."
"What is this exactly?" Tim asked.
"A deed to a piece of property in Victor. The legacy of our great-grandfather"
"And why did Barry lust for something like this?" BD asked.
"Perhaps if he had this paper then there would have been no bomb. The family home was on 6th street back then, far on the edge of town."
"But I saw the news article. A mob tore the house apart."
"Yes they did, but the land still belonged to the Tilden family. At least it did until the mining company took it over without asking. Now it's on the site of their processing facility…and we still own it."
"I doubt that," Tim said. "No one has paid the taxes on that bit of land for over fifty years. The town would have taken it for back taxes."
"But the mine has been paying taxes, and besides, the land is not within the town limits, never was," Neil said.
"So they hanged our great-grandfather and stole the land. What could Barry have done about that?" BD asked.
"Get a lawyer and sue the mining company…at least get fair worth for the property."
"It can't be worth much," BD said.
"Think again…that soil is probably riddled with gold dust."
"Then we should sue and get it back," BD said.
Neil smiled. "And what would you do with the money?"
"I don't know…well, yes I do. Feed the poor, start a shelter for homeless gay youth. Those are worthwhile things. The money doesn't interest me."
Neil folded the paper and placed it back in the wallet. Then he slid it across the table to BD.
"I could abide with that," Neil said, and then he smiled. "You may not feel religious but you're doing the Lord's work."
BD laughed. "Don't pin that label on me, Neil. I don't need religion to teach me how to treat my fellow man."
"Do you know a good lawyer?" Neil asked.
"I certainly do."
So many things came together in those early days before winter blanketed the Rocky Mountains and all of them involved Bill, Tim and BD.
Lemuel, Isakson, Greene and Metzger had filed suit against the Victor Gold Mine Company for illegal seizure of the Tilden property. Their corporate lawyers had laughed until they were faced with the publicity and the furor of the Governor's office. The state had allowed this piece of chicanery and would be embarrassed if all the facts came to light.
The suit was quietly settled out of court and BD surrendered the deed to the property as he received the settlement check. Even with a twenty percent commission to Bill's office, BD was still going to have over a million dollars to fund the charity work he envisioned.
The sentence of Barry Tilden was finally handed down, and the judge gave him the death penalty. There were automatic appeals for something like that and it would take years to resolve, but if Barry wanted to be a martyr he would eventually get his wish. The other seven were found guilty and given forty years apiece.
Bill and Matt were skeptical about Barry ever facing the proscribed lethal injection. He would sit on death row for years as the legal battle went on, but Bill was sure that the Governor would in all likelihood commute the sentence to life without parole. Barry had killed a cop and that was sure to make him popular at Ravenswood State Penitentiary.
Neil Tilden took the helm of the cathedral just as the shrinking congregation was about to cause a failure of the Tilden dynasty. His open message of peace, tolerance and acceptance was the only thing that saved his ministry. That and the announcement about founding a mission which would give succor to the poor and homeless. BD had found the perfect person to administer the money provided by the Victor Gold Mine Company.
The former Bishop Ernest Tilden was found guilty of criminal conspiracy and stripped of his credentials by the Ministry of God. He was facing a five year prison term when he had a stroke and was relegated to a nursing home for recovery. The only correspondence he received from his wife was a letter attached to the divorce decree.
For Tim, the onset of winter meant early darkness and a warm body in his bed to ward off the chill. BD was just happy that the trials were over and his name was out of the news. Part of that was the partnership he shared with Tim and the renewed relationship with his brother.
"Neil told me Barry used to beat him up. I never would have known," BD said.
"Barry has given up any right to your family name…what a wacko."
"At least he's out of my life."
Tim smiled. "Maybe he'll meet my old buddy Sheriff Barnes in Ravenswood. They have a lot in common."
"I keep forgetting you faced a bad time in court."
"No so bad, I had friends in all the right places," Tim said.
"And what do you have now?" BD asked.
"I have love, what else do I need?"
A note from Chris
My thanks to the readers for following the story this far, but this will be the end. The characters and this author need a break from one another. They will sleep in the back of my mind as I go on writing other stories. The fun never ends!
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