Christopher, Craig & Co.
Part 100: Damage.
The Pit was a charming little barbecue restaurant nestled one block off the main thoroughfare. It was just after 7pm when a hostess who had to be a student at the college led the four of us to a booth at the back of the establishment. I had changed my shirt once again—this time I was wearing red—I’m no dummy and I know I always end up wearing barbecue sauce despite my best efforts.
I had put my skills to work to hide the redness and swelling around my own eyes. I had begun the day already fighting Mother Nature due to a distinct lack of sleep. But having sat alone in my bedroom watching a DVD transfer of Richard King’s Greatest Hits I was working extremely hard to hold myself together.
Wade kept looking at me like I might break. His memories of his time with Donald were still sorting themselves out, but he had a very good idea of why I understood his particular predicament and also what my life must have been like all those years ago.
Scott was treating me like he knew if he let me out of his sight I was going to confront Richard. This was half right. I was going to confront Richard. I just hadn’t decided if I was bringing a knife to this gunfight or if I was going to play by Scott’s rules and let the FBI arrest him.
So far, cutting a bitch was winning.
Scott, for his part, hadn’t turned over the DVD to his section chief yet. It was clear he thought he should, but it was also clear he knew that once that disk was entered into evidence I was going to be outed in an entirely different way.
Dinner at the barbecue joint was awkward, and not because I was trying to avoid spilling sauce down my shirt. The good news was The Pit’s bar served plenty of vodka based drinks.
“Do you think you should slow down with that?” Scott asked as I downed my second Vodka Lemonade.
I shook my head. “I’m pretty sure I want a few more of these before bed.”
Scott didn’t say anything, but his expression spoke volumes.
And the worst part was he was right. I was allowing myself to fall back into terrible old patterns. I had been dangerously close to developing a drinking problem after I escaped Richard’s house all those years ago. There was a reason I rarely allowed myself to drink vodka. But having watched that video—no, that wasn’t the problem—knowing Scott had watched that video, I was going to need some liquid courage before the discussion that was bound to take place before bed this evening.
It wasn’t as if this was the first time I found out a video of my youthful exploits existed. I had heard rumors for years of VHS copies floating around. I had even been alerted to photographs being traded years ago and, much more recently, appearing on Flickr and Tumblr of a barely out of teenage years me in varying stages of undress and bondage. But this was such a low blow from Richard even I couldn’t have predicted it.
I finished my third drink and could feel that I was pleasantly tipsy. The food was honestly tasty. Austin was attentive to Wade. Wade and Scott were fixated on me. And I was determined to make the best of a bad situation.
“These ribs really are wonderful,” I said. “Austin, your friends were right. I’m very glad we could all get together like this.” I smiled at each of them. “I do hope someone will jump in and say something. I’m sure I don’t know but if I wasn’t trying to keep the conversation going then we would just be sitting here in an embarrassed silence.” Look at that—three drinks and I turned into Mrs. Peacock from Clue the Movie.
“The ribs are good,” Austin agreed, licking sauce from his fingers.
I saw Scott roll his eyes, but he made no comment.
“Do you guys have plans after dinner?”
Wade met my eyes. “Not really. I mean, if Austin wants to come over and watch movies in my room—” He faltered and looked away from me.
Scott spoke up, “I think that’s a good idea. Make it an early night and stay at the house. We’re all tired today.”
Wade staying home would make me happy tonight. I hadn’t had nearly enough sleep in the past 48 hours and I knew Scott wasn’t going to let me turn in early thanks to Richard’s latest affront.
We finished eating and headed back to Greenhill Road. I was much too sober as we pulled into the driveway. Wade and Austin raided the fridge for sodas and headed up the stairs to check out Netflix.
Scott pulled me into an embrace in the foyer.
“You want to talk about this,” I said quietly.
“I do,” he said.
“Even though I don’t want to?”
“Don’t you think you need to?”
I pressed the heels of my hands over my eyes and rubbed. “I don’t think you can imagine how humiliating it is to know you saw what’s on that disk. To know that when you look at me you’ve seen that…”
Scott took a step back. “Is that what you’re upset about?” He scuffed his boot on the tile. “I knew you were withdrawn all night but I thought you were reliving bad memories.”
“Those aren’t even memories. I don’t remember any of that!” I snapped. “I remember situations like it. But that day doesn’t even exist in my memory. Now it does. Now I can’t unsee it. And what’s even worse is you can’t either. I was so fucking stupid. I let Richard charm me and then I let him do things to me that I—”
Scott pulled my hands from my face and shook my arms. “Chris, you were a victim of abuse.” His stern tone surprised me. “You didn’t LET any of this happen. It was done to you. Is what’s on that tape representative of what happened to you during your time with Richard?”
“What do you mean?”
“Did he beat you regularly?”
Scott blew out a breath. He paced a few steps away from me and then back again. “I think I get it now,” he said softly.
I didn’t know what he was even referring to at this point, but I didn’t have it in me to ask for clarification.
“This is where it all started, isn’t it? Why you worked so hard to save Wade. And why you flipped out when he was kidnapped. And why you’ve been warning us all to avoid Richard and be careful. You told me he was the reason you’re claustrophobic. But you never told me what life was really like with Richard.”
“I couldn’t because it’s humiliating. I couldn’t because most people can’t even imagine what it’s like to be victimized at that level. And I couldn’t because I couldn’t bear to think of how you would ever be able to love someone as damaged as I am.”
Scott pulled me to my feet and held my chin so I was staring into his eyes. “Enough!” he roared.
“The only thing I can’t take is the way you talk about yourself. You are the man I love. And I’m tired of you running yourself down. We’ve all got fucked up pasts. But what we’ve been building here is worth it. YOU are worth it. This weird little family of you, Wade and me works. You’re not damaged. You’re stronger than most people because of what you’ve lived through. People who survive aren’t remembered for the shit they’ve gone through—they’re remembered for what they’ve overcome.”
I kissed him. I wanted to fall into his arms…into those lips…into his embrace. I wanted to feel safe with the man I love. And I wanted to erase the memory of that tape.
Scott hugged me tightly. “We’re going to find a way to prove what Richard has done and send him away for good.”
I shook my head. “No. No, Scott. I love you, but no. Richard will get away with what he’s done just like he always has. You said it yourself—he set Craig up to take the fall for kidnapping Wade. He’ll have a rock solid alibi for last night. Any number of his friends will swear they were together.”
“You think his friends will lie for him?”
“That’s the term he uses in public for his subs—friends. It makes my flesh crawl every time he calls me his ‘dear friend.’ They won’t have to lie. He’ll hypnotize them to believe it.”
I stifled a yawn. “I’m too tired to reason this out tonight. Can we just go up to bed?”
Scott looked lost in thought. “Sure.”
I checked the front door. It was locked. I also double checked the kitchen door.
“You know I don’t think he’ll come here,” Scott said.
“I don’t either. Sending you that dvd was an act of war. Sending it to me wouldn’t have upset me enough—I lived it. He knew that my pattern would be to sabotage our relationship over this. He just didn’t count on a few things.”
“He didn’t know you’d be so patient and kind to me. He didn’t know that the FBI is involved. And he didn’t know that for once I have something worth fighting for. Ten years ago I’d have gone over there with a gun and shot the bastard dead, Scott.”
“I don’t like that look in your eyes.”
“Richard King started this war. But I’m going to win it.”
To be continued in Part 101…
Christopher, Craig & Co.
Part 101: Phillips, Jones, Edwards & King.
The next morning, I awoke full of determination. I was going to make today better if it killed me and everyone else. I got out of bed and went through my morning ablutions, then spent an extra few minutes getting my hair to look just so, before choosing an outfit that I knew I looked good in. If the secret to feeling good was looking good, then I was going to win this battle.
The coffee was ready by the time Scott ventured downstairs. I was finishing my second cup and perusing the newspaper.
“Hey,” Scott said as he leaned over and kissed my cheek. “You look good.”
“I’m working on it,” I replied. “I have some things to handle on campus before class this morning so I am going to take off soon. How’s your day look?”
“I’ll be in class,” he replied, “But after that I probably won’t see you until dinner.”
“Sounds good. I have a full day myself.” I stood, set my coffee mug in the sink, kissed him, grabbed my bag from the den and headed out the door.
I checked in at the department office and gathered my mail, etc., then spent a few pleasant moments chatting with Rita, the department secretary. Rita was a throwback to the days of big shouldered broads. I adored her.
When I reached the classroom I found Nick already inside. He glanced up when I entered.
“Hi Christopher. I was hoping I could catch you for a minute.”
I set my stuff on the desk in front. “What’s up?”
“I haven’t been able to reach Marty for almost a week.”
I paused. I had two options here. I could let my imagination run wild and convince myself some terrible fate had befallen Marty. Or I could opt for the more likely idea that Marty was just busy. “Do you have any reason to believe something has happened to him?”
“No. But we were spending a lot of time together and now he’s not answering my calls.”
I walked over to the desk in front of his and sat down. Nick and Marty had only become a D/s couple because I hadn’t had a better idea at the time for what to do with either of them. “Well, maybe you should see about meeting some new people. Maybe a nice guy with an interest in spandex?”
A grin flitted across his face.
“There’s no reason you can’t find someone else to spend time with, Beach Boy.”
Nick’s eyes lost focus and his chin dipped to his chest.
“Nick, you are no longer compelled to spend time with Marty or do anything he suggests that you don’t want to do. You may pursue your own sexual interests and any man who you find attractive. Do you understand?”
“Good Beach Boy. The posthypnotic suggestions you have been subjected to will begin to fade out of existence beginning today and you will regain control of your mind, body, and—most importantly—free will. Do you understand?”
“Is there anything else I should know about, Beach Boy?”
“New Master,” he mumbled.
“New Master?” I repeated. “Are you looking for a new Master?”
“Have a new Master.”
“Is Marty not your Master?”
His head shook slowly side to side.
“Who is your new Master, Beach Boy?”
Fuck me. “Who?”
“King. Masterrrrr Kinnnnng.”
I’m pretty sure my heart stopped beating for a moment. I glanced at the clock. We didn’t have much time before other members of the class would be arriving. I forced myself to sound calm. “How did you meet Master King?”
“Friend of Professor Edwards,” he slurred.
So Richard knew what Edwards had been doing to Nick? Did he also know my connection to Nick? I had so many questions I didn’t know where to start. Yes, I did. “Does Master King know Marty?”
Maybe I had discounted Marty being in danger too quickly. I needed to tell Scott what I had learned.
I heard students’ voices in the hall.
“Awaken on the count of 3, Beach Boy. 1…2…3.”
Nick blinked hard twice then looked at me and smiled. “You really think it’d be okay to start seeing other people?”
I forced a smile. “I do.” I stood and returned to my bag to retrieve my lecture notes. Students were filing into the room. I saw Scott arrive.
“Mr. Wilson, a word, please?”
He set his books on a desk and approached the podium I was standing behind.
“Some new information has come to light,” I said in hushed tones. “Richard has been hypnotizing Nick—and apparently Marty has been missing for a week.”
“What?” Scott said sharply.
Several people turned.
“I can tell you more after class. Should you call in about finding Marty?”
Scott was grimacing. “I’ll be back as soon as I can,” he said then strode swiftly out the door.
Wade was watching me carefully when I looked up. I smiled reassuringly at him. He rolled his eyes.
Class was uneventful and my mind wasn’t really on task today. I needed to get through this hour so I could talk to Scott. He had returned a few minutes after the start of class and sat with his phone on the desk in front of him. It was obvious to me that he wasn’t listening to anything going on in the room.
Once class dismissed and Scott, Wade and I were the only three left in the room, Scott said, “What the hell is going on, Chris?”
“Nick got here early and we chatted. He told me that he hasn’t been able to reach Marty for a week and he has a new Master—a Master King.”
“This is unbelievable.”
“Richard has made Nick his slave?” Wade asked. “Why Nick?”
“For once I don’t think this has anything to do with me or us. Richard told me he was in town because his friend had died. The friend was Damian Edwards. The only thing that makes sense is that Edwards learned hypnosis the same way I did—from Richard—and that Richard knew what Damian was doing with Nick.”
“There’s an APB out on Marty Jones. Hopefully this is just a misunderstanding.”
“Do you believe that?” I asked.
Scott shook his head.
I checked the clock. “We need to clear out of here. And you two need to get to your next classes.”
“What are you going to do?” Scott asked.
“I’m going to check on our friends. I think it may be time to circle the wagons.”