Christopher, Craig & Co.
Part 151: Semi-Charmed Life.
Scott was sitting in the driver’s seat talking on the phone when I emerged from the building. I angled myself into the passenger’s seat and waited for him to disconnect.
“How’d it go?” he asked.
“Better than I expected. They wanted me to take a leave of absence. I refused.” I filled him in on the rest of it. When I was done, he tugged my jacket toward him and kissed me.
“You never cease to amaze me, Chris.”
“Is that good?”
“Most people would have caved and taken the leave. You came out swinging.”
I shrugged. “I always feel like a steamroller in these situations.”
“A good simile,” Scott said on a laugh. He put the car in gear and pointed it toward home.
“What did you find out?”
“From all accounts that reporter you’ve met is relentless. I don’t know how we’re going to keep him from publishing Wade’s name, among other things.”
“I can think of a way,” I said, immediately regretting it.
“Edwards’ drug?” Scott asked.
“Ok, two ways.”
Scott cut his eyes to me. “I don’t think hypnotizing him is the way to go, Chris.”
“I know, I know. Every time I try to use my powers for personal gain it blows up in my face.” I changed the subject. “What happened with Craig and Richard?”
“From what I was told it sounds like the D.A. hadn’t agreed to a deal for Craig, but they wanted to bring both of them in on the same day so they both got arrested. Arraignments are scheduled for tomorrow.”
“You don’t think Richard will get bail, do you?”
Scott shifted in the driver’s seat. “They’re planning to argue he’s a flight risk. I don’t know. Craig will probably, but if he’s as broke as you said he won’t be able to pay it.”
“How much are we talking?”
“You can’t pay it. You’ll lose your job.”
He was right. “So what happens if he can’t pay?”
“He’ll stay locked up until his trial. Listen, I know Richard put him up to it, but let’s not lose sight of the fact that he attacked Wade twice. A little time in jail to think about what he did might do him some good.”
“I think Craig’s been punished enough. Don’t forget that Richard killed Alan.”
Scott pulled the car into the driveway and parked. “That’s not going to help him in court.”
“I don’t want to talk about this. Let’s go inside, get in pajamas, get some ice cream out of the freezer, and watch something stupid.”
And that’s what we did.
Tuesday Scott strongly suggested that I not go anywhere near the courthouse and thanks to Tom Marko’s article that seemed like good advice. Instead I spent the afternoon at the club with Mike trying to figure out a schedule for employees and another for ordering. I received several calls at the club’s number looking for comments on the cases, but after the third one Mike began answering the phone with a statement that Mr. Boldt has no comment and that this is a business phone for Leatherman’s.
Around half past three my cell phone rang. It was Wade.
“Hey, Chris. I’m over at the courthouse.”
“Don’t worry. Austin’s here with me and we’re both fading into the background. You should see this place. There are TV crews even. Anyway, Richard and Craig both got bail set.”
“Yeah. Craig doesn’t look too good.”
“I think he’s going to be in jail for a while.”
“Are you home?”
“No, I’m at Leatherman’s.”
“Great. Austin and I will swing by in a bit.” Wade disconnected.
I punched Scott’s number. He answered the second ring.
“Richard was granted bail.”
“I know. Did you know Wade was going to the courthouse?”
“No!” Scott let out an exasperated breath.
“He and Austin are on their way here to the club. How late are you working?”
“I’m not sure yet. More guys have gone missing and there’s going to be a meeting here soon. Don’t wait for me for dinner.”
“Don’t forget Brad is coming over tonight.”
“Good luck with him. Love you.”
I pocketed my phone.
Mike looked up from the desk. “Brad? Clark’s Brad?”
“Yes. I’m helping him.”
Mike nodded. “Clark told me Brad was the one who told him about the website.”
“Are you and Clark becoming friendly?”
“I’d say more than friends. We’re supposed to hang out again tomorrow night.”
My cell phone rang again before I could reply. I didn’t recognize the number, but that was becoming a common occurrence. “Hello?”
“Mr. Boldt, Tom Marko here. What did you think of the story I wrote?”
I pursed my lips. “I think you have an interesting relationship with the truth, Mr. Marko.”
“Does that mean you’d like to set the record straight as to what really happened?”
“No, it means I have no comment about anything that’s happened.”
“Not even about the fact the young man who lives with you now was Craig Matthews’ target? What exactly is the nature of your relationship with Wade Thompson?”
I tapped my foot impatiently. “Mr. Marko, I believe we’re going to have to meet to discuss this. Unfortunately, I have several commitments left on my schedule today. Do you think 8:30 tonight would work for you?”
I could hear the eagerness in his voice as he replied, “I can make that work. Where shall we meet?”
“I know you have my address, so would that work?”
“Listen, before we meet, there’s part of the story that you should look into. I think if you do some research first it will make a lot of other details fall into place.”
“What is it?”
“There’s a website called Masteredslave.com. Apparently, that’s a major part of this whole story now.”
“Masteredslave.com,” Marko repeated.
“Yes. I can’t pretend I know how Richard or Craig are involved with it, but I definitely think you should check it out.”
Mike was staring at me with a surprised expression.
I held up a finger. “I’ll see you at 8:30.” I disconnected.
“Christopher! You know that if he goes to that website, he’s probably going to be under its control. It only took me one time before I couldn’t stop logging in. That site is addictive!”
Mike had also been hypnotized by me repeatedly before he’d encountered the website. But I was hoping Tom Marko would be part of the ten percent of the population who are super suggestible. Karma owed me this one.
“I’m not proud of myself, Mike. But I need this reporter to understand a few things. And I need to protect the rest of us from him.”
There was a knock at the backdoor and a glance at the monitor showed Austin and Wade were standing outside.
I opened the door and they both flopped on the leather couches.
“Chris, it was a scene at the courthouse today. The reporters are all trying to whip this up into a big gay thing.”
Mike looked up from the ledger he was poring over. “Isn’t it already? I mean, you’ve got gay guys disappearing and being murdered and both guys who were arrested dated the same guy. Christopher’s lucky the reporters aren’t camped out front here and at the house.”
“You’re not helping,” I said. I turned my attention to Wade and Austin. “Did anyone try to talk to you at the courthouse?”
“No. I don’t think anybody even knew we were there,” Wade replied.
“Good. What are your plans tonight?”
Wade looked at Austin, who shrugged.
“I have two appointments tonight at the house. Do you think you could stay out ’til 10?”
“On a school night?” Wade asked with a big grin on his face.
He giggled. “No problem.”
If only that were true. Tom Marko was going to be a problem. And my solution to that problem might just open up a bunch of new problems. Scott wasn’t going to be a fan of this idea. I just needed to control how much information went out publicly about Wade’s and my involvement. I was protecting my family, not just myself. That couldn’t be considered personal gain.
To be continued in Part 152...
Christopher, Craig & Co.
Part 152: Part of the Solution or Part of the Problem?
Brad Miller was standing on the front doorstep when I swung open the door at 7:01 pm. I invited him in and he took off his coat, revealing a pullover sweatshirt and a pair of jeans. His Nike sneakers matched the color of his sweatshirt, his sandy hair poked out from under a ballcap, and he looked unhappy.
“Hi Brad. What’s wrong?”
He looked at me, surprise evident on his face. “What makes you think something’s wrong?”
“You’re under no obligation to tell me,” I said, turning and walking into the den.
He followed me. “Are you mad about something?” he asked.
I turned to him and shook my head. “No. But you’re obviously stressed or anxious or unhappy about something and I thought we were friendly enough that I could ask.” I sat in my chair and crossed my right ankle on my left knee. “Please have a seat.”
Brad lowered himself onto the couch and looked at me warily. “If I tell you something will you be honest with me?”
“I haven’t lied to you before.”
Brad frowned. “Ever since I left here the other night, I’ve been having weird flashes of like memories.” He brushed an imaginary piece of lint off his pantleg. “I mean, I don’t see how they could be memories because they’re things I don’t remember doing, but it definitely feels like I’ve done them. That doesn’t make sense, does it?”
I nodded. “It makes a lot of sense.”
“It does?” Brad sounded skeptical.
“We did a lot during your last session. I told you to remember it, but your subconscious may have interpreted that to open the door for you to remember all of your sessions. I can’t pretend I know everything that happened to you in your experiences with Masters on the site, but at least one of the men you talked with gave you a nasty mindfuck.”
Brad appeared to shrink a little on the couch. “Is this how it will be? I’ll remember things and feel like the world’s biggest idiot for subjecting myself to all of this?”
I softened my tone. “No, but it will likely take several more sessions for us to try to undo some of the damage that was inflicted on you.”
Brad stared at the toe of his sneaker. “Then I am damaged.”
“No more than the rest of us, Brad. For the record, I don’t think you qualify as the world’s biggest idiot.”
He smiled at me, but it didn’t reach his eyes.
“Make yourself comfortable on the couch, Brad. Relax, Power Player...”
Nearly an hour later I roused Brad. I had removed all traces of suggestions to cause pain or feelings of humiliation or inadequacy in him. There were still likely a few active triggers and several memories he hadn’t accessed yet, but we made good progress.
“How are you feeling?” I asked as he stretched on the couch.
“A little out of it.”
I nodded. “You were deep tonight. I didn’t want to push you too far all at once, but I think you should start to feel better tonight.”
Brad got to his feet and swayed a little.
I jumped out of my chair and guided him back to the couch. “You ok?”
He nodded slowly. “Yeah. Headrush.”
“Maybe you should give it a minute before you drive, Brad.”
He looked me in the eye. “Chris, how’d you learn to do this stuff?”
“That’s a very long story.”
“And you don’t want to tell it.”
I frowned. “Not all of it, no. But I learned the basics from a man who used hypnosis to use and hurt guys.”
“I really didn’t think that was something to worry about. I just thought it sounded hot and might be fun.”
I patted his arm. “It is and it can be. When you’re playing with the right guy, that is.”
I glanced at the clock. “I have someone else coming over in a bit and it might be best if he doesn’t see you here.”
Brad stood again. This time he appeared steady. I walked him to the door, and he put on his coat. “When should I come over again?”
“Why don’t you text me Thursday and we’ll see if that or Friday works better?”
“Thank you,” he said, then let himself out the door.
I watched him walk to his car then shut the door and chewed my lip. Tom Marko was going to arrive any minute and I had no idea what he was going to be like or what he was going to want, and, even more to the point, I had no idea what I was going to say or what I was going to do to prevent him from upending Wade’s and my lives.
A martini would really hit the spot right now. No, Chris. Not until after Marko leaves. That was all I needed, to get tipsy and say or do something that would make the entire situation worse.
8:30 passed. Then 8:45. At 9 I was beginning to wonder if I had been stood up. Then my cell phone rang.
“Mr. Boldt, this is Tom Marko from the Daily Herald.”
“Weren’t we supposed to meet half an hour ago?” I asked.
“Yes. I’m terribly sorry, but I was delayed and am on my way to your address now. I should be there in ten minutes.”
I sighed. “See you soon.” I disconnected the call and dropped the phone in my pocket.
About ten minutes later there was a sharp knock at the front door. I swung it open to reveal Tom Marko. He was attractive, in a preppy sort of way, with brown eyes and fine brown hair that was neatly styled. He wore his coat open over a maroon sweater and gray slacks. I noticed his black shoes were freshly polished.
“Mr. Boldt, I do apologize for arriving late. Time seems to have gotten away from me today.”
“Don’t worry about it. Come into the den where we can sit and talk.”
The reporter followed me in and sat on the couch at my gesture. I returned to my chair and waited for him to start.
“Mr. Boldt,” he said in his lilting accent, “may I call you Christopher?”
I shrugged. “That’s fine. Tom, is it?”
He nodded. “Christopher, I’ll tell you plainly when I received this assignment, I wasn’t happy about it. However, the more questions I asked, the more questions I found. I believe the young men going missing and Richard King and Craig Matthews and Leatherman’s Club are all somehow related. The common element in all of these, I’m afraid, is you.”
I nodded. “I can see how you might think that.”
“Am I to infer you don’t agree?”
I had been rehearsing this speech in my head for the past half hour. “I’m only getting sucked into this because two men I dated have been arrested. Richard and I broke up YEARS ago. Between us, he was a control freak and I didn’t want to be controlled. Craig and I broke up more recently because he was cheating on me with an old boyfriend of his. I had very limited contact with him after he moved out and, while he did attack Wade more than once, I understand from what little the police will tell us, that there are extenuating circumstances.”
Tom leaned toward me. “And just what is your relationship with Wade Thompson? He seems very young to be living with a college professor.”
I squared my shoulders. “I resent your implication, Mr. Marko. This isn’t for your paper, but to satisfy your curiosity, I’m in the process of adopting Wade.”
“You’re adopting a college kid?”
“I am.” That was all he was going to get on that subject. “Any other questions?”
Tom leaned back on the couch and seemed to redirect. “I have many questions. But, to start, just what does that website you told me about have to do with any of this?”
“Masteredslave.com? Did you look at it?”
“I did. But I couldn’t seem to get past the first page. I kept getting distracted, and it was getting late.”
I suppressed a smile. Score one for my karma! “Slave must obey,” I said in a commanding tone.
Tom’s brown eyes slid shut and his jaw went slack.
“What the hell is going on here?” Scott said from the doorway.