Rihanna - Stay
TV On the Radio - Staring at the Sun
Out Of My Mind: Part 5
Sheriff Beauchamp and deputy Gilhart stood in the middle of Casey and Link’s room. They looked at each other after taking a few laps around the small room. Both hid their shock with a professional, calm and practiced expression. Beauchamp leaned into Gilhart and whispered something. The young deputy nodded. He took his leave, silently padding out of the room, past a horrified line of onlookers.
Link couldn’t take the silent tension. He was going nuts. Pulling out of Casey’s arms, Link tried to enter his room, but Beauchamp held up a hand without so much as a look his way.
“This is evidence now, Link. I’m sorry, but I can’t have you in here. Why don’t you all go sit out in the lobby. I’m going to make a few notes before the other boys show up and then I’ll be right there.”
“It’s okay,” Casey murmured, guiding Link away. “Let him do his job.”
“That’s easy for you to say. There’s not a police officer looking at hundreds of naked pictures of you!” Link stormed down the hallway. “It’s always me. It just always has to be me!”
“He’s not mad at you, Case,” Adam offered.
Casey rubbed his face with his hand, groaning. “I know, but that doesn’t make this any easier. Excuse me. I have to…never mind.”
Turning around, Casey left them to go after Link. He found him brooding on the lobby couch, bare feet pulled up onto the cushioned ledge, and a scowl on his face. Casey didn’t have the right words, pretty shaken himself, but like Link had been his rock a few days before, Casey silently sat next Link and gave him the same stability. Their hands gravitated towards each other. Fingers twined tight as if they were each other’s life vests in the stormy, open water that surrounded them. They stared a water color painting of a sunset on the wall to avoid the pitiful stares directed from the incoming swarm of unfamiliar deputies, and held on for dear life. They refused to watch each other drown. They wouldn’t go down like that.
Half an hour later, Beauchamp sat down in the lobby with Adam, Perry, Link, and Casey. He put his hat on the small table and sighed.
“Well, that’s reassuring.” Link slapped his hands to his knees. “You don’t have anything, do you?”
“I do.” Beauchamp stared at him. “And none of it will make you feel any better, Link.”
Casey locked his arms around Link, hoping he would stop nervously squirming. “My dad’s here, isn’t he?”
“I just received word from New Orleans your father didn’t appear at his court hearing this morning. After he was put on unpaid leave, no one’s heard from him. His partner, Shane is also missing. He took a few personal days to get himself together before he was supposed to be at Joseph’s hearing. Neither of them are answering their phones, and New Orleans is working on tracing them, but I have a feeling they’ve gone off the grid. Any cop knows not to use their phone or their plastic if they don’t want to be found.”
“That’s it? That’s what you’ve found?” Link growled. “How the fuck did he get those pictures then? Huh?”
“That’s what I’d like to know, Link, and the only person who can answer that is you.” Beauchamp crossed his leg over the other, threading his fingers together. “I need you to put aside your fear right now and be straight with me, son. Where did he get those pictures from, if it was Joe who planted them?”
Link’s ragged exhale made Casey close his eyes for a second. “It’s okay, Link, I won’t be mad.”
“Mad? It’s not about that, Casey. He just promised. He promised me…” Link turned to the Sherriff. “I can’t.”
“I’d rather hear it from you than go looking, Link. Tell me who took those pictures, son. Everyone has a past and I know you’ve got one too. There isn’t anything you can’t tell me. I’m trying to help here.” Beauchamp leaned forward, putting his elbows on his knees. “Go ahead.”
A slew of officers filed in and out of the lobby, ignoring them completely. Link watched them come and go. Every one of them had seen his naked body at least a dozen times. His shoulders shook. He put his face in his hands. “I can’t do this.”
“Yes you can.” Casey rubbed his back. “What the hell happened, Link?”
Link sat up quickly. “Ricky! Ricky happened.”
“Who’s Ricky?” Beauchamp grabbed his pen and paper from the table.
“He owns Club Dieux in Frankfort, Ricardo Sanchez.” Adam folded his arms over his chest.
“Adam!” Link hissed.
The Sherriff started to jot notes. “Did you and Mr. Sanchez have a relationship, Link?”
Frozen with his mouth open, Link squeezed Casey’s hand.
“Yes, they did.” Adam stared at Link.
“Link?” Beauchamp looked up. “Is that true?”
“Yes,” he whispered.
“Did your relationship end on bad terms?”
“Yes.” Link locked eyes with Adam. Adam frowned, his eyes urging Link to get it out. “His fiancé found out about us.”
Beauchamp nodded. “You worked at the club, didn’t you? I remember you working the booth at the festival.”
“Were the pictures taken during work hours?”
“No. They didn’t allow cameras in the club. I only…I only stripped for a little while, six months maybe.” Link couldn’t look at Casey. He held onto his hand, hoping that would keep Casey from running. “I worked as an assistant manager at the club during our relationship.”
“So you remember the time these pictures were taken?”
“Mr. Sanchez took the pictures then?” Beauchamp’s hand stilled over the paper.
“No. Pedro did.”
Adam turned to Link, eyes wide. “What?”
Link let go of Casey’s hand, positive the next thing that came out of his mouth would end their relationship. But he couldn’t hold the words back. He’d fighting to keep them down his entire life. He’d wanted Casey to live his life, free of his past, even though it would always be there. Now he had to tell someone, otherwise his life would be a lie. Casey deserved to know about him.
“I grew up with nothing. I moved from home to home, hoping someone would keep me for long enough to know what…to know what it felt like. I wanted a family, whatever that means. I wanted to be cared about just like anyone else. So I started to try and get attention, being loud, dressing sexy for all the wrong reasons, just wanting someone to notice. And finally someone did. I was eighteen and living in a one room apartment with five other guys. One of them worked at the Club Dieux. He said I was pretty enough to dance, that I should, and that he’d introduce me to Ricky because I could make a lot of money.”
Link folded in on himself, remembering another time that was only five short years ago. “Ricky took me in, no questions asked. He and Pedro, they pitied me, and gave me a room above the club to stay in. They fed me. They paid me. But most of all, they cared about me, or so I thought. I got attached to them. They were so nice and I’d never had that before. They were like my own little fucked up family, and between them and the other employees, I felt like I belonged. After six months of stripping and helping out around the bar, they started to train me for assistant manager. They said they liked the way I handled things and that the customers loved me. They said I was perfect for the job and they wanted to get me off the stage because I was better than that.” Link wiped his eyes on the back of his arm.
“A few years went by. Ricky and Pedro started having problems, fighting out on the floor, firing people for no reason, slamming shit around. I kept my cool, but I wanted them to work it out. It was like watching a car crash over and over. They were my family and I couldn’t stand it. One night it got really bad. We were packed and I swear I waited all night for the fire marshal to show up and kick people out. Pedro was yelling at Ricky, the bartenders were going at each other’s throats, and the dancers were a mess. And then a group of guys came in, already drunk and looking to touch any dancer they could. Security was having a hard time getting around the crowd to kick them out. And before they did, one of the guys approached me. He started touching me, pushing me towards the back.
“He was bigger and I couldn’t stop him. No one was helping me, so I screamed. He hauled his fist back to hit me, when out of nowhere Pedro and Ricky rushed him. They took him down. There was a big fight. The crowd finally got involved. The cops were called and the place got shut down for the night. I was pretty shaken, and of course, Pedro and Ricky took care of me. They brought me home, coddled and fed me. I saw how that night brought them together, how they were touching each other and being…like they used to be. I let them fuss over me because they were actually fussing over each other. I thought it was I was helping.
“One thing led to another and I ended up in their room. They insisted. They both kept whispering to me, telling me how scared they’d been, how they couldn’t lose me. They told me how much they cared about me, how beautiful I was.” Link turned away, tears running down his face.
Casey stared at the ground, hands limp on his knees. Link glanced at him and lost it completely. “I’m so fucked up. I let them use me however they wanted to because it felt good. I let them tell me whatever they wanted because they wanted me. I thought I was a part of something special, that they loved me, and that’s how they showed it. I knew it was wrong to let Pedro take pictures, because he was only going to use them to get off later, but in the moment, I didn’t care. I was in their bed. I was between them. They weren’t fighting anymore. They were…together…with me.”
“So you thought they were just going to let you stay there with them, a long term couple adopting a little house boy? Link, you had to have known better.” Casey gripped his knees. “You were an adult!”
“Casey, don’t.” Perry narrowed his eyes. “Don’t judge someone until you’ve been in their shoes. I was never in the same situation, but I know what it’s like to go unnoticed, yearning for something that you can’t find. Don’t you dare criticize him, not now and not ever.”
Casey leaned into the couch, closing his eyes. “I’m sorry, Link. I’m just…”
“Disgusted? Yeah, so am I.” Link got up from the sofa. “When Pedro left for work the next morning, Ricky stayed. We had another couple of rounds of mind blowing sex. He told me he was the one who loved me, not Pedro, and I fell for it. We fucked for about a year behind Pedro’s back, after Pedro said we couldn’t continue our little threesome because it was wrong. Then Pedro found out about us a year ago and outed me to the entire gay community, black listed me and made my life a living hell because I was nothing but a fucking slut.” Link’s eyes lost their vulnerability. His body was stiff as a board. His heart broke into a thousand little pieces. “Pedro took those pictures, Sherriff. And I guess your dad isn’t such a homophobe after all, Case, because Pedro is the biggest homo I know. I hope they’re happy together.”
Link grabbed his hoodie and crossed the room. He slapped the screen door open so hard, it slammed against the wood siding.
“Until further notice, no one leaves the haven. There are deputies posted all over the premises to ensure no one goes in or out without my permission. Casey, get off your ass, and go tell your boyfriend he better not be planning to leave, and that’s an order. Maybe you should think of an apology while you’re at it.” Beauchamp stood. “Adam? Perry? A word please?”
Giving Adam and Perry an angry look, Casey stomped off to find Link. He was angry, not with Link, but at himself.
Link threw a twig into the water and watched it twirl around. He flicked his toes across the cool surface of the creek feeding into the lake. His hands splayed over the rotting wood of the abandoned dock. Half it was broken off, jagged timber jutting out of the water here and there, but a few feet of flat surface remained, enough for him to sit on. The old two bedroom house at his back was in shambles, decaying in the middle of the woods, on the edge of the haven’s property. Adam and Perry had told him to stay away from the place, but he always came here to think despite their warnings. There was broken glass and rusty nails everywhere, but he’d been in worse places and he wasn’t a child. The quiet of the woods relaxed him, with the ancient dock and the warm, creek water caressing his feet, Link was in heaven.
Early spring buds dotted the natural water line, directing his thoughts deeper into his past. He used to be just like those little white flowers. They were young, beautiful, and innocent, surrounded by grassy mud and the wild outdoors. And just like those buds, Link had grown. And just like when the first frost hit, he too wilted under the pressure and lost everything. He envied those little flowers, however lame it sounded. Next year, they would start all over again and get another chance to show their beauty. Link would forever be tainted. He was a man, and men didn’t get second chances where he came from. It was ironic to him how both he and the flowers lived in the same world, but from a completely different view. Casey would always look at a flower and smile, because they didn’t have words to cause trouble or a past that made them ugly. And when Casey now looked at Link, he’d see him for who he really was, a man that could never be beautiful again.
Desperate to look at anything but those damn flowers, Link pushed to his bare feet and stepped over his flip flops. The white clapboard house sat on a sturdy mound of brown grassy earth, surrounded by the dirty little creek on one side and the lake on the other. As he studied the chipped paint, the kicked in screen door, and busted windows with their hanging, faded black shudders, Link found himself imagining again. It wasn’t so bad if you saw the potential the place had to offer, he thought.
When he looked past the shards of glass protruding from the window sill, he saw a glossy, double paned window, half open with gauzy curtains fluttering in the evening breeze. If he looked past the bent screen door, he saw a small porch with a snow white railing. There would be a porch swing with fluffy yellow pillows and a couple of hanging flower boxes. The peeling door would be painted a crisp red. A gleaming brass knocker would hang in the middle, welcoming someone into their home. The grass under his feet would be green, not brown, and soft enough to nap on or roll around with their dog…
Link stopped daydreaming when the image of Casey laughing and running around the yard flitted through his head. He ran a hand through his hair, feeling like an absolute nutcase. “There is no we. There will never be a dog. You’re a fuck-up, Link, and you deserve this.”
Numb with his realization, Link turned back to the dock. Casey stood there watching him, holding his flip flops out. “One of the deputies said you’d gone this way. And didn’t Perry say there’s glass out here? Put your shoes on before you get hurt.”
“I’m good here.” Link spun around, favoring his daydream over reality. He couldn’t stand to see the disappointment or anger on Casey’s face. He’d had his fill of both, enough for a dozen lifetimes.
“Link, please, for me?”
“For you? There is no you anymore, Casey. There never was because I knew how you’d react if you found out about me. It was all a lie. Every kiss, every touch, every fucking word was based on a lie. I’m not this bouncy little guy you like. I’m nothing, Casey. This is it.” He put his hands out. “This is me.”
“You aren’t nothing, Link, and you fucking know it.” Casey put the flip flops down. “I had no right to say what I did back there. Perry was right. I have no place to judge you. I can’t imagine, even with my dad being crazy, not having a family to turn to. I can’t imagine never having a place to call home or what I’d do to feel like I had one. I can’t put myself in your shoes. But what I can do is offer you a home, Link. Shit, you’re the closest to home I’ve ever been. It may not be a roof over our heads, but it’s you and me, and it feels so fucking right.” Casey crossed the overgrown lawn. “I’m sorry, Link. I was angry at my dad. I was angry at those guys for taking advantage of you when they knew how much you just wanted to belong. I was angry that you didn’t have any way out other than your body. I’d take a dozen black eyes to erase what they did to you, what they still do to your mind every day, but the reality is that I can’t. I can’t change what happened to either of us. And I don’t want to. If none of it ever happened, I wouldn’t be standing here, looking at you, and hoping to God you forgive me. I would never even know you existed and wouldn’t that be the ultimate hell? I would have to keep looking for home, because nowhere else would have felt like this.”
Covering his mouth, unsure of how to process Casey’s declaration, Link took a step back. “I can’t be what you want. You don’t even know what you want, Casey. You’re so young and new to this. I’m not anyone’s home. I’m someone’s home-wrecker.”
“You’re only three years older than me. You’re young enough to still live, Link. And I know exactly what I want. Maybe I haven’t experienced what the world has to offer, but who needs to go through all of that when here you are, right in front of me. I don’t have a crush. I don’t want to trade saliva in the back of a copy mart. I don’t need someone to point out how new to the game I am. I don’t need to have a college degree or a middle aged beer gut to make lasting life decisions for myself. I want you, Link. I want to get through this with your hand in mine, because no one else leaves behind shimmer in my palm like you do. No one else will ever make me smile like you do. And no one else would ever be so kind as to help me with my problems, when deep down, they’re drowning in their own. That’s what family is to me. You are my family now.”
Link sniffed, shaking his head. “Someone else would do that for you. I know they would.”
“And even if they did, they wouldn’t be you.” Casey reached out and stilled Link’s head, cradling both sides with his palms. “You said the first time you met me, you felt it, whatever you want to call it…a spark? Did you feel that with them?”
Link’s brows bunched. His mouth quivered and tightened. His eyes watered again. “No.”
“I’ve never felt it with anyone else before either.” Casey pulled Link to his chest. “Maybe we are young and stupid, but I’d be stupidest person of all to let you hate yourself and leave me. I love you, Link.”
“No you don’t.” Link tried to push away.
Casey held on tight, taking the half-hearted fists to his chest as Link struggled. “Yes I do.” He took a few deep breaths and started to sway. “I love you, Link,” he repeated.
“You can’t love me. No one has ever—”
“Everyone around here loves you. Adam and Perry love you so much. They talk about you all the time, how proud they are of you, how much they respect what you’ve done with your life. Those ladies at the Quilting Bee love you. They wouldn’t make so many quilts for you if they didn’t. You spend hours with them, making them laugh when most of them probably don’t have anyone else to share that with at home. You make them feel special because that’s your gift. Gunner and Roy love you enough to give me a pep talk, telling me I needed to treat you right and make you smile because you deserve that.”
“They what?” Link looked up.
“Mm hmm, last night before we packed up, they talked to me. They really care about you.” Casey wiped away his tears. “My mom loves you, even though she’s never met you. She said anyone who makes me laugh over the phone has her heart. I don’t laugh very much, I guess.”
Link sniffed. “You talk to your mom about me?”
Casey stared into Link’s expectant eyes. “Because that’s what you do when you want to share how much you love someone. You tell anyone you can how amazing that person is.”
Link’s brows furrowed in thought. His body relaxed. “Will she like me?” He asked quietly.
“Why do you care?” Casey grinned, filled with hope.
Sniffing, Link looked away. “No reason.”
“What?” Link turned back, lip trembling. “What do you want me to say? I don’t know what to do right now.”
Knowing Link was a second away from losing it under the pressure of the day, Casey pulled back, still smiling. “Start by putting your shoes on. I’ll handle the rest.”
“That’s it? That’s your grand advice?” Link wiped his eyes and stomped over to the dock. “Fine.” He pushed his feet into his flip flops, his heart racing a mile a minute. Casey loved him. It was all he could think about and he couldn’t find room in his brain to comprehend it. He was thrilled, surprised, confused, and angry all at the same time.
Casey pulled his phone out of his jeans and scrolled through the screen. He pressed play as Link approached, and set the phone in the grass. Link stopped, looking from the phone, now playing a soft song, to Casey. “What are you doing?”
Casey held out his hand. “May I have this dance?”
“Are you fucking kidding me right now? How can you be so calm?” Link charged up the slight incline, getting in Casey’s face. “This isn’t play time, Casey. Someone is out there, gunning for both of us. I’m a wreck. You love me.” He fisted his hair, ready to detonate. “You’re crazy.”
“No I’m not. Dance with me.” Casey grabbed his hand and spun Link around. He brought him back to his chest, sliding a hand around his waist. Caught off guard, Link gasped as he was pressed into Casey. Dark eyes stared at him. They began to sway. Link was confused. His heart pounded. But Casey didn’t say a word, turning him in slow circles until their feet seemed to have a mind of their own. The sway of Casey’s hips relaxed Link into submission. He put his head on Casey’s shoulder and closed his eyes. It was all he could do to keep from throwing up.
“This is my magic power over you.” Casey kissed his head. “You can’t resist,” he teased.
“Dancing is a stupid power.”
“Not dancing, getting you to relax. Every time I hold you and start to sway, you melt and I love it. I like being able to help you, somehow, even if it seems dumb. And I like the way you fit right here in my arms, like you were made to dance with me.” Casey twined their fingers together, closing his eyes.
Link grunted. “You are seriously the cheesiest person in the world.”
“So? I don’t think it’s stupid to tell someone what you like about them. I think it makes them feel good,” Casey whispered. “And I think we both need some of that right now.”
“Are you saying I don’t tell you what I like about you?” Link sighed heavily.
Casey nuzzled his face in Link’s hair. “You don’t have to, Link. I already know. Just dance with me. This is enough.”
“Oh, so you don’t want to know what I like about you?” Link whipped his head up. “Is that how this relationship works? You praise me like a good little boy because I’m pitiful?”
“I don’t think you could be a good little boy if you tried, and what relationship, Link? I thought you were set on pushing me away?” Casey dipped him back, grinning.
“I…” Link swallowed before he was pulled back up and spun around. Casey fit to his back, pressing lips to his shoulder. “Casey, I don’t want to leave,” he admitted.
Casey turned Link in his arms. “No one wants you to. I want you right here, just like this. But it’s up to you what you want, Link. I can’t make you love me.”
Link growled softly. “Don’t use that reverse psychology bullshit on me. I know what you’re doing.”
“Is it working?” Casey chuckled.
Link planted a hand on Casey’s chest, making room between them. “Serious moment, Case, okay?” You can do this, he coached himself, you can tell him anything. Look at the way he stares at you, Link thought, like he will never look at anyone like that again. Link waited for Casey to reply. “Case…”
“I’m listening.” Casey slid his hands down Link’s arms.
“I want you to know some things if…if this is going to happen. I don’t want to lie anymore.” Link exhaled.
“You never lied to me, Link.” Casey frowned.
“Just shut up and listen to me, okay?”
“Okay.” Casey squeezed Link’s shoulder.
“Okay.” Link bit back his fear and went for it. “I’m an attention succubus. I feed on any affection I’m given and crave more, constantly. I need reassurance over and over. I like to watch crappy movies just to make myself cry because I feel better afterwards and I have no idea why. I like neon because bright colors make me happy. I read somewhere that they help battle depression.”
“Link, you don’t have to tell me this.”
“Shut up, I’m not done. Sometimes I spend hours in the bathroom getting dressed. I hate peanut butter and therefore I hate most Thai food. I like naps that last all day, not because I’m in a funk, but because I just like to snuggle in my blankets. I hate mornings and I don’t do coffee. So don’t try to get me up unless I ask you to the night before. Sometimes I write quotes on the mirror to inspire myself, and half the time they don’t work, but I keep doing it because I still like reading them.
“When I started stripping, at first it was about the money, but then I actually liked it because I love to dance and I loved the way people stared at me. Every time I look in the mirror, I try to find ways to better my appearance because no one has ever told me I’m beautiful and meant it like you did. I like your voice. It makes me feel good when I hear you talk because I know you’re close by. And sometimes when you’re not around, I find myself listening for you. I like the way you eat without looking at your food because you’re too busy watching everything around you, myself included. I like the way you look at me, and I know how much of a teen movie cliché that is, but I do. You look at me like I’m something important to you and not just a guy you want to bang. It makes me feel important.” Link put his hands to his chest.
“I’ve never felt such passion from a kiss before you. No matter how into a man I thought I was, his kiss never promised me anything like yours does. I feel safe with you even though I know you can’t protect us both. No offense,” he added and sighed. “My reluctance stems from a lot of things, but mainly it comes from the fact that I think I want you too much. I know that’s crazy, because I know you want me back, but the more you want something and finally get it, the easier it is to lose. You’re what I’ve wanted for so long, Casey. Now that I finally have this home you claim to give me, I have something concrete that I can ruin. I’m a guy that ruins things. Nothing good ever happens to me. What if you just walk away, decide I’m too much to handle, and I know what it’s like to lose it all? I wouldn’t survive that.”
Link finally met Casey’s eyes again. What he saw there made his fears float away. Casey really did have super powers.
“And I wouldn’t have survived this without you. Now that I have you, I don’t want to know anything else.” Casey brought Link’s hands to his mouth, kissing his knuckles. “You are important to me. And from what I’ve heard, I think I matter to you too. I don’t think I’ve mattered that much to anyone before, except my mom.” Casey smiled. “That’s kind of a given.”
Link smiled. “I’ll take your word on that.”
Casey’s smile faded a bit. “Link?”
“Can we finish our dance now?” Casey chuckled when Link elbowed him.
“God, you looked so serious. Don’t do that shit to me!” Link grumbled, secretly ecstatic. “Fine.” He slapped his hand into Casey’s open palm. “If we must.”
Casey pulled him close again, bringing his mouth to Link’s ear. “We must.”
Link relaxed into Casey again, surrendering to the magic sway of Casey’s hips. The music sounded louder than it was, embedding the lyrics into Link’s memory forever. His first slow dance with the man that he…
“I love you too.”
Casey groaned, embracing Link as tight as he could without crushing him. “I know.” He turned his head, greeting Link’s mouth with his own.
In front of the ruins of his dream house, on his imaginary lush green lawn, Link threaded his hands in Casey’s hair and fell in love.
Adam texted Casey, telling them to come back to the house. It was getting dark and the Sherriff had set a curfew for all staff and guests. With the exception of Gunner and Roy, who had left a text for Adam, and decided to take a day trip to some spa a few hours away. Casey wished like hell they had offered for him and Link to tag along, because the scene they walked up on was not one he wished on his worst enemy.
His mother was standing there next to Aunt Kim, a day early and fuming mad. She threw her purse on the ground, pushed her sleeves up, ready to scrap. A gorgeous Latin man in loose fitting board shorts and a tight t-shirt scowled back at her.
“This is none of your business, lady. Who the fuck is this bitch?” He turned to Beauchamp. “And how does she even know Link?”
“That bitch is my mom.” Casey snarled. He got up in the man’s face, and pushed his palms against his chest, greeting rock hard muscle. “Don’t you ever talk to her like that again.”
“I wouldn’t have to if she stayed the fuck out of my business. And who the hell are you supposed to be, wonder boy?”
Beauchamp blew out a slow breath, silently whistling. His deputies looked elsewhere, giving Casey permission to take this asshole down a notch.
“Baby, don’t do anything stupid,” his mother spat. “It’s bad enough that he has to walk around knowing he’s an asshole without you touching him. It’ll rub off on you.”
“No you didn’t—” The man looked over Casey’s shoulder. Relief flooded his eyes. “Thank God, baby. I thought something had happened to you. Come here.”
Casey made the connection, looking between the man and Link. His hands balled into fists.
“Fuck you, Ricky. And if you talk to my boyfriend’s mom like that again, I’ll rip your nuts off.” Link shouldered up with Casey, forming a wall between Ricky and Casey’s family. “I’m not your baby. I’m his.” He hitched a thumb at Casey with a smug smile.
“You’re what?” Ricky scoffed. “This thing is your boyfriend? Oh no, no, no. This has to be a joke.”
Casey saw red at the mention of Ricky’s name. “No joke here, Ricky. Enjoy your nap.”
Ricky raised a brow. “What?”
Casey hauled his fist back and brought it to Ricky’s face so hard he thought he broke his hand. Ricky’s eyes rolled before he went down. Silence permeated the air. Link brought a hand to his mouth in shock as Casey cradled his fist and hissed. Perry slung and arm around Adam and spit to the side. He nodded at Casey.
“Nice one. You put him out cold.”
Adam shook his head. “Don’t condone violence, Perry.”
“I will condone that jerk shutting his mouth finally, don’t matter how it happened.”
“I’ll second that.” Sherriff Beauchamp grinned. His deputies chuckled. “Now why don’t you all get settled in for the night and have yourselves a nice little reunion. I’m sure you have plenty to talk about.”
“Finally.” Aunt Kim stepped forward, putting her thumbs through her belt loops. She stared at Perry and dug the heel of her cowboy boot into the gravel next to Ricky’s head. “And we meet again.”
Perry snorted. “And I want a rematch. Ain’t no one ever drink me under the table before. Miller good with you?”
“It’s always good with me.” She walked past him, and into the house.
“Can someone explain what the fuck is going on?” Link threw his hands up with a bob of his head.
“Come on, honey. I could use a beer myself.” Casey’s mom put an arm around him like she’d known him forever and led him into the house. “Casey, I’m condoning underage drinking. Get your butt up here.”
“She didn’t mean it,” Casey assured Beauchamp.
“Mean what?” Beauchamp winked and followed after his deputies.
Shane nudged Pedro through the door. “Keep moving.” He pressed the muzzle of his gun into Pedro’s back.
“You can’t do this to me. I helped him. I didn’t want to hurt anyone!” Pedro stumbled into a surprisingly modern kitchen and fell to his knees. He pushed up on his palms, studying the open concept cabin with gleaming wood floors and plush sofas surrounding a roaring fireplace. “What the hell is this place?”
Joe stepped into view, arms crossed over his chest and a gun in one hand. “Our new headquarters. You like it, Pedro?”
Shane pulled Pedro to his feet, pushing him towards Joe. Pedro snarled. “We had a deal. You were just supposed to scare them and I was supposed to go about my own business. This is kidnapping, you son of a bitch.”
Joe clucked his tongue, smiling. “Scare them? No, Pedro. I’m losing my home. I’ve lost my job of twenty-one years. I’ve lost my son to your disgusting lifestyle. I’ve lost my woman. I have nothing to lose and this isn’t kidnapping if you’re an accessory to murder. You should know. You’re a lawyer.”
“You set me up!” Pedro charged Joe. The ex-cop threw him to the ground and pointed his gun at Pedro’s face.
“Yes, I did. Thanks for the pictures. Now I have everything I need in place. My wife showed up, just like I knew she would. Your boyfriend showed up. Now that he’s got an alibi, as he was at work all night, they’ll be looking for you too. My son is here with his whore, and they’re all about to get drunk.” Joe swiped a small monitor off the back of his belt and held it up. He clicked the on button, letting Pedro hear everything happening from the front porch of the lobby. “It could not have worked out more perfectly, thanks to you.”
“You’re crazy!” Pedro sat up, eyes frantic. “You won’t get away with this. There are cops everywhere and they’ll keep searching for you.”
“Not here.” Joe held up his hands, pleased with himself. “This cabin belongs to them.” He pointed his gun towards the bed in the corner.
Pedro slowly turned his head, hearing a soft sob. He got to his knees, able to see over the mattress. His eyes went wide. Two men were bound with rope and tape, hands behind their backs and knees drawn up to their chests. Their mouths were gagged then taped and their eyes were bloodshot with tears.
“They went to the spa.” Joe went to the kitchen island to produce Gunner’s phone. He held it up, winking at Pedro. “Giving me access to whatever I want.”
“You’ll rot for this, Joe. Mark my words,” Pedro hissed, climbing onto the bed just to comfort the men with his presence. His heart shredded for them. He had to help them. “What have you done?”
“Ruined people’s lives? Come on now, Pedro. I saw what you did to that kid. Don’t make me sound like a monster. You’re a lawyer for fuck’s sake. That’s what you do, ruin people. Don’t grow a conscience on me now.”
“No. Not like this. This is…”
“Oh shut up, Pedro.” Joe kicked him in the back, sending Pedro off the bed. He doubled over on the ground. “Anything new?” Joe turned to Shane.
“Found a county road that butts up to the property. I left their car there. Not one cop all the way here.” Shane smirked.
Joe laughed. “I love small town authority. Did they really think we’d just take the main road?”
“Guess so. But if someone happens by, they won’t think anything of it. The path to the cabin is right next to the vehicle. We’re clear.”
“Good. We’ll give it until dark. They’ll be good and drunk. Then what do you say, after our long day at the spa, we text our good boy Casey for some more towels? I feel like a nice long soak in the tub.” Joe grinned at Pedro.
“Sounds good to me.” Shane chuckled, grabbing the monitor from Joe to crank up the volume. From the speaker, he heard the slam of car doors. Different voices were joining the party. Shane looked up, confused. “Joe?”
Joe snatched the monitor away, bringing it to his ear.
“I told you not to play with guns, pop,” the Sherriff’s voice rang loud and clear.
“Don’t worry,” a deep voice hissed. “We was just gonna to do a little duck huntin.”
“By duck do you mean Joseph Belgard?”
Joe and Shane glanced at each other. The unmistakable sound of shotgun after shotgun being locked and loaded made their blood run cold.
“That’s exactly what I meant,” pop replied.
Joe and Shane shared the same surprised expression. “What the fuck?”
TO BE CONTINUED…