Toby’s sitting in front of the cop, resigned. He’s been here for three hours; now he wants nothing more than to be left alone.
“I told you the whole story twice already,” he says, weary, but automatically smiling at the woman who puts a hot cup of coffee on the table. He wants to go home; he’s feeling tired and dirty.
“Please… One last time, in case you can tell us something that helps us find him.”
Toby knows they won’t give up. He sighs.
“OK. I left Fred’s party after 9 pm and got lost on the east side of town; a maze of streets just under the overpass, I think I drove around ten times at least trying to get onto the freeway but I couldn’t find the access…”
He would’ve found his way probably but he was feeling sick and dizzy; too many martinis mixed with champagne, too much alcohol at Fred’s birthday party. Since Gen’s new pregnancy he’d picked up the habit of drinking a bit too much, a bit too often, letting friends or colleagues drag him to parties where he didn’t quite fit, hence the drinking -or so he thought.
“At some point I gave up,” he says, “and just parked the car on a street. I don’t remember the name; I noticed the red-brick low buildings. I remember many of them being walled up. Deserted place. I saw some guys outside a bricked up door, they’d lit up a fire to keep warm.”
“What time was it?”
“All this time driving around in the same streets; I can imagine you were feeling a little upset.”
Toby shrugs, the cop’s arrogance doesn’t reach him; he’s too tired and too sore and too… well, too stunned.
“I was feeling tired and lost; I thought I’d take some time to get a grip.”
Toby remembers the sense of helplessness, the anger, the fear, maybe, lost in that unknown place that was nowhere near the wide, nice avenues of the wealthy districts he used to live and work in, wondering if he’d ever find his way back, letting some booze-induced paranoia creep through his mind, picturing the scary things that might happen to him; and finally smashing his hands against the wheel, cursing his friends, Gen, and the whole fucking world. He’d been following Philip’s car for a while and lost it at an intersection; Philip hadn’t waited for him. The bitter allegory of Tobias Beecher’s life; not important enough to be waited for.
“I saw a small shop; it was open; I decided I’d go get some help.”
… And a drink; Christ he needed a drink more than anything else, knowing that more booze always managed to give him the sharpness of mind he needed, the smartness; booze, like cocaine, did that to him; it was one of the strange paradoxes of his life, these days.
So he crossed the street, wrapping himself tighter in his overcoat, his hair tousled, his face whipped by a cold wind, and pushed the door of the little store. …
“The keeper was an old man; white hair, I remember how wary he looked.”
“I’d say he was right.”
The cop’s eyes are hard and clear; Toby feels looked upon, and judged. He sighs and sips his coffee.
Toby remembers every fucking detail with clinical precision; the white and red dirty tiles, the tingling of the bell, miscellaneous items lined up on metallic shelves against the wall; ice-creams in a wheezing freezer, soft drinks and beers in a fridge; an old wooden counter and an antiquated cash register.
He gave the shopkeeper his best smile, the one that worked with juries, kids and dogs.
“What did you buy,” the cop asks.
“Nothing… I just needed some help.” That’s what Toby tells the young detective.
In fact he bought a bottle of vodka; and he was about to pay and ask the old guy about the quickest way to the freeway…
“That’s when he entered the shop.”
Just the way the bell tingled, and the cold draft invading the place had them both turn to the door and see the tall silhouette of a biker dressed in black leather, blue eyes scanning the place, tight mouth –and the gun. Christ, the gun had been the first thing Toby had registered and he’d looked up to see the old man’s reaction, stepping back to the far corner of the shop, frozen with fear…
“What happened next?”
Toby shrugs and closes his eyes for a second, the whole scene replaying in his mind in slow motion, with distorted voices saying senseless words…
He saw the shopkeeper grab something under the counter; but before the old man was able to aim the gun he kept hidden there, the biker shot; once, straight in the chest, the strength of the blow shoving the man against the shelves, cans, bottles, boxes crashing down on him as he pressed his hands against his bleeding wound, eyes wide, mouth open; broken bottles had split the man’s skull open, his face was cut all over, he was covered with rice, coffee, ketchup and blood.
Even now he has to rub his fingers against his face to make the vision go away.
“Did the shot kill him?” he asks.
“Doctors think so.”
Toby doesn’t know if it’s a consolation; he’s relieved though, at least the poor guy didn’t suffer…
Then the biker walked around the counter, pushing the agonizing body out of his way with his boots, and grabbed all the cash he could find, shoving wads of bills in his pockets.
God, Toby prayed, please, make this stop.
The blue gaze scanned the shop, rested for a second on the corner where Toby was hidden–and saw him.
“Fuck,” the biker said. Just that and it sounded like death.
The cop sighs.
“Did you see any bike?”
“We found one, but it was stolen; no prints on it. Do you remember if the guy wore gloves?”
“No,” Toby said, “maybe he’d taken them off outside, maybe because of the gun. Must’ve been easier to shoot without them.”
Which means they found no fingerprints anywhere of course, but do they really need fingerprints?
“Please, go on.”…
A slight hesitation, a second to make up his mind and the biker jumped over the counter, grabbed Toby by the collar of his coat, dragged him under the hard light of the neon.
“Give me the bottle,” he ordered and since Toby didn’t react fast enough he snatched it off his hands, threw it inside the shop…
“He struck a match, let it fall on the floor, then he dragged me out.”
“The fire destroyed almost everything.”
His back to the inferno, the biker glanced at the car parked on the other side of the street, then back at Toby and said, “That yours?”
“OK, let’s go; you drive.”
The blow landed on his jaw with such strength Toby nearly fell down, caught himself up, grabbing the man’s arm.
“If you kill me I won’t be able to drive,” Toby said, wiping the blood off his mouth with the back of his hand…
Toby looks at the cop and shrugs. “I could hear sirens in the distance. He shoved me inside and we took off.”
As he was driving, the gun and the guy’s eyes were aimed at him, both dark and threatening; Toby wasn’t sure which was the more frightening…
“Did you try to talk to him?”
“Yeah, I’d heard that if you’re abducted, it’s a way to force your assailant to acknowledge you as human; so I tried to start a conversation; but…” He opens his hands in a helpless way…
“Shut the fuck up, your shit won’t work with me,” the guy said. “When I tell you, turn left.”
Left, then right and every minute seemed to pull them deeper in the circles of hell, squalid houses, bumpy streets and no one around to be seen; even the light of the street lamps seemed dimmer.
Toby felt like he’d been driving for hours; suddenly a hand gripped his, turned the wheel to the left; he felt the car shake. Shit, he’d nearly dozed off, the car must’ve swerved.
“Hey, watch the fucking road, OK? You’re gonna get us killed.”
“Yeah? Why don’t you drive then?”
The man’s expression in the darkness was indecipherable but Toby made out something like a mocking smile, something… human? The voice though was as hard as before when the guy snapped “Left and right, first one; come on, speed up, we don’t have all night.”
The cop sighs; he’s been following the trip on a map; Toby can tell by the thick blue lines how far from home he was at the first time, and how much farther they drove, the other side of the city…
“Finally he made me stop at a garage door, in the lower level of an old building; I drove inside, it was dark; there was another guy waiting for us; I didn’t see him, didn’t even hear his name.”
“Ronnie Barlog; a little thief, made cars over; every slug in town’s right-hand man; some slugs’ whore, too. We found him dead; one shot in the head. I don’t think he’ll be missed.”
Jesus. Barlog had sounded worried; asked how it had gone, how much cash the biker had got; whistled at the sight of the bills; Toby still behind the wheel, praying to be forgotten, wanting to vanish into thin air... Until Barlog turned his eyes to him.
“Hey, who’s he?”
“He’s the guy with the car, he was in the shop.”
“Fuck, what are you gonna do with him?”
Wasn’t it obvious, Toby thought just when the biker –his friend had called him Keller dragged him out of the car and said; “Take care of the car; I’ll take care of him,” with a creepy smile.
“Then Barlog left and I stayed alone with that man. Keller.”
“And Keller didn’t kill you.”
The cop doesn’t swallow it, of course, raises an eyebrow. “That is strange; Keller’s not known for having a highly developed sense of compassion or respect for human life; he should’ve killed you.”
“Well he didn’t.”
“OK. Now how about telling me the whole truth?”
“There’s nothing more to say. He locked me in a dark room all night and left.”
“Come on this is bullshit and we both know it… What did he do? Rape you? Blackmail you? Threaten your family?”
“Nothing. He just left me in the dark,” Beecher says, stubborn. “I must’ve fallen asleep or passed out; in the morning you found me and Keller was gone. Period. Sorry to disappoint you, officer; there’s nothing more.”
The cop knows Toby’s lying; he’s pale and bruised and shocked, pretending Keller roughed him up a bit; shaking and pathetic; but there’s no way to make him confess something it doesn’t want to. Anyway it wouldn’t change a single fact; Keller’s on the run and it might be a long time till they hear about him again.
“I don’t know where he went,” Toby says, “I’m sorry, I’d like to help, but…”
“We’ll catch him; we might need you again, then.”
A sigh and a nod. “May I go now?”
Later his father’s driving him to the country house where Gen and the kids are waiting for him; Toby’s watching through the window of the car, looking at the streets, the buildings, the highway; leaving the city far behind. Toby closes his eyes.
Replays the whole scene; the part he told no one about. The part he feels ashamed, and guilty –and more than that, stunned and still wrapped in helpless pleasure.
“OK,” the lazy voice of that Keller guy said, “now what about you?”
Toby shivered in the cold darkness of the garage.
“Let’s go upstairs,” Keller added.
“Why don’t you kill me here?”
“Who says I’m gonna kill you?”
A flare of hope and then the cold voice came again: “Although yeah, looks like the right thing to do; you’ve become a kind of… liability- that’s what my old pal Vern calls guys like you.”
Pulled and dragged up endless concrete stairs, along a corridor, through an open door into… a bedroom? Was that mess a bed? There didn’t seem to be anything else in the room. But it was warm; Toby saw a heater shining red in the darkness. Then the light and he had to blink.
“Let’s see what we have,” the man –Chris- said, coming closer. Too close; Toby could feel his warmth and the smell of leather and a faint scent of something he couldn’t identify.
Too close; fingers working on his coat, pushing it down to the floor, taking his glasses off his nose, and a warm hand ruffling his hair before sliding along the shirt.
Just thinking about it makes him shiver again and he curls up against the leather seat of his father’s car, his cheek against the cold glass; he doesn’t notice Harrison’s look of concern, he’s back to that room, twelve hours ago.
“No,” Toby said, shaking. “No. I don’t want this.”
“Uh, uh,” the man said, breathing against his ear, his fingers undoing the buttons one by one.
“What part of ‘no’ don’t you understand, exactly?”
Bad move, Toby, he thought. The man stopped and leaned closer, his body resting against Toby’s from wide spread feet to his chest, his stubbly cheek warm against Toby’s face.
“Let me go!”
Keller stepped back and looked his prey deep in the eyes, his gaze shining, the smile on his lips deceptively warm -crazy.
“Don’t push me, that might piss me off.”
“You wouldn’t kill me now.”
“You might be surprised.”
The kiss took Toby off guard; he didn’t even see Keller move; strong hands framed his face, fingers bruising his cheeks; a hard mouth pressed against his mouth, lips parting his own lips – the hungriest kiss Toby had ever been through. It didn’t really seem to worry Keller that Toby didn’t kiss back, didn’t matter that he was shaking.
Jesus, he could taste Keller again.
… “Are you OK, Toby?”
“Yeah, I’m fine, Dad, just tired.” …
Keller’s body pressing against him, muscles bulging under Toby’s hands when he tried to push him away again; but Keller’s determination, his strength, his hunger overpowered Toby’s efforts to break free and he found himself clutching at these arms for balance, trying to get a grip, feeling the man’s hard-on against his thigh.
“How long until we’re there?” he asks his father, with a maddening sense of estrangement.
“Three hours. You should take a nap.”
So Toby closes his eyes again, resuming the thread of his thoughts.
He was shoved to the bed, thrown down on it and crushed under a breathtaking heaviness, swift hands undoing his pants, pulling them down, ridding him of all that got in the man’s way, and the mouth moved down to his belly, his cock, Keller’s tongue playing with the sensitive head, his hot mouth taking it in like some delectable candy.
Crazy how good it felt, Toby thinks, sighing, remembering how disgusted Gen is with blowjobs in general and particularly since she’s been pregnant; picturing her appalled grimace and the way she lets his cock slip out of her mouth before he comes, sickened at the idea of swallowing any drop of semen. Keller… seemed to like, love, enjoy, revel in every single second of it.
Toby can feel it again, how good it was to just drown, drown deep in pleasure, held still by merciless hands, trying to fight and failing, refusing to give up until the throat constricted around his cock and he just had to surrender with a desperate moan, and come, barely noticing the fingers pushing inside him.
“Oh my God!”
“Yeah, come on, you like it, uh? Fucking uptown repressed little bitches love being fucked by bad guys like me.”
Keller’s voice was breathless, dark, hoarse; Toby felt something bigger press against his anus and enter him carelessly; pain tore a desperate cry out of him, he arched his back and tried to escape, blindly, grabbing the edge of the mattress, tears rolling down his cheeks.
“What’s your name?”
“What’s your fucking name?”
“Tobias… Tobias Beecher.”
He kept his eyes closed, trying to get used to the sensation; feeling his body go numb, pain being just a faraway sensation, and he was falling…
“Don’t you fucking pass out on me, Toby!” Fingers grabbing his chin, shaking him, he was slapped, pulled back to consciousness, “Come on, it’s OK, you’re OK, you’re gonna get used to it, listen to me, listen, come on…”
Toby sobbed helplessly.
“Listen,” Hands were running over his skin, soft strokes, soft voice breathing words in his ear, “I’m going to count to ten and I’ll begin moving, now relax, just relax, stop fighting me, it only makes it more painful,” the voice like velvet, silk, the sweetest music, “Relax, yeah, just like that, come on, let it go, it’s OK, you’re doing great. One, two…”
Did he ever count to ten? Toby can’t remember.
The first thrust took him off guard, pain and inside the pain a dazzling incomprehensible pleasure rushing down his spine straight to his cock, Keller’s blue gaze on him, watching him.
“You like it? Once more…”
And then Toby was lost, arching his back to make it better still –just thinking of it now makes him hard- pleasure building again inside him, Chris’ hard thrusts shaking him, throwing him against the head of the bed, forcing him to grab the body above him and hold tight, moaning, and even that wasn’t enough; the man was possessed by a new fury, raw hunger, biting him, sucking on his skin, wrapping his fingers around Toby’s cock and making him come again –losing any bearing, wrapped in the tight embrace, fingers raking through his hair while Chris was coming too…
“So,” the man said after a moment, “did you like it?”
Toby didn’t answer, didn’t say a single word, just stayed absolutely still; felt fingers touch the drying semen on his belly…
“I’ll take it as a yes,” Keller said smugly.
And after that Toby let Keller do anything he wanted, too shocked to fight him, letting pleasure wash over him, numb him, until the wee hours of a grey cold dawn when he was dragged out of that room to another one, smaller, darker, locked there after a last kiss.
… The buzzer of his cell phone jolts him out of his thoughts, he starts, looks for the phone in his pocket.
“Must be Gen,” his father says.
It’s not Gen. Words on the screen.
“I wanna see you again. I’ll find you. Keller.”
“So, what was it?” Harrison asks, glancing at his son.
“Nothing, a message from an ad company. Nothing important.”
“I’ll find you.” Yeah, I bet you will. Motherfucker. Shit, he doesn’t even know how he feels about it. Scared. Thrilled. Terrified. On the verge of something that could turn his whole life into something different. But he can’t think now, he’s too tired. Later, maybe…
Toby sighs, puts the phone back in his pocket and lets exhaustion crash down on him. When Harrison looks at his son again he’s asleep.