ASP--The Oberlin Five--Chapter Five--Luke
In spite of being awakened by the nightmare, I had slept well afterwards and was awake early. Matt was sleeping soundly beside me, but as soon as I got up to go to the bathroom, he was right behind me. "Ok, this morning, Luke?" he asked as we stood side-by-side, relieving ourselves.
"Sure. Yea. I'm fine. Feel like a run on the beach?"
"Sounds great." We went back to the room and put on running shorts and shoes. Just as we stepped into the hall, Kent poked his head out of his room. "'Morning. How are you two doing this fine Sunday morning?"
"Fine," I answered. "Want to go for a run?"
"Sure. Give me a minute to get dressed and I'll join you downstairs."
When we reached the kitchen, Paula was putting on coffee. "Want to go for a run before you do that?" I asked.
"Sounds good. Give me time to get dressed. Meet you on the beach."
Matt and I walked down to the lake. The house sat on a bluff twenty or thirty feet above the beach which gave us a fantastic view of the lake, but which meant getting to the beach involved a walk down a steep, zigzagging path. Fortunately, the beach was sandy for a couple miles in both directions because much of the shoreline in our area was too rocky for running. When we reached the beach, Matt and I started doing some stretching and warming-up exercises. A few minutes later we were joined, not by just Paula and Kent, but by Eugene and Larry as well. "Well, well, well," Matt said, "guess we don't have a lazybones in the bunch."
"I'm not lazy," Paula said, "but I'll not make an attempt to keep up with you five."
"Ok, let's run," Larry shouted and we took off. We ran about an mile, I guess, down the beach and then turned and started back. Paula wasn't far behind and fell right in with us as we ran back to the house.
We all quickly showered and got dressed in one thing or another and I reminded Matt and Eugene that it was their turn to start kitchen duties. It wasn't long before we had a big breakfast on the table but, as large as it was, it vanished quickly. "Kent, we'll take my car this morning and you can take either the truck or the Jeep," Eugene said. "Paula, if you want to look around, take what Kent leaves."
"Think I might just do that," she responded.
"Sunday dinner at 2:00," Matt announced as we went upstairs to get dressed.
ASP--The Oberlin Five--Chapter Five--Matt
It took me a while to go to sleep after Luke's nightmare. Fortunately, he drifted off to sleep quickly, snuggled against me. I wondered why he had the nightmare. Maybe it was just left over from before. Finally I fell asleep. I woke up when Luke got up to go to the bathroom and realized I needed to go too. When I asked Luke how he was doing, he kinda brushed off the question by saying he was fine. As I looked at him, I thought, "Luke, Babe, you may say you're fine, but I've been around too long. What's going on?" I wanted to ask him but didn't.
After a run and a big breakfast, It was time to go to church.
We had found a church, St. Anne's, not far from our place. It appeared to be a bit larger than St. Mary's, but not so large as to be impersonal. As we started up the walk to the church, I said to the other three, "I hope, oh how I hope, they have a decent organ!" As we got closer, I could hear the organ. Inside, I could see that it was much smaller than St. Mary's--and much older--but the sound was great!
The service was less formal--I guess Episcopalians would say it was Low Church--but the priest, who was in his thirties I think, had a decent sermon about caring for those others reject. He talked about all the times Jesus refused to judge and condemn people others considered outcasts. The four of us kept looking at each other and agreeing.
After the service, we introduced ourselves to the priest, Father Manville, although he didn't use the title Father. Luke told him we were used to it and asked if was ok to call him Father and he said it was. Several people welcomed us and asked if we were just visiting, and we told them we were Oberlin students so they asked us to come back.
When we got back home, Eugene and I finished preparing Sunday dinner and were just about ready to serve it when Kent came in. "Well, how do you like that?" he asked. "My family has always sat in the same pew and this morning when I got to it, Dad sorta wouldn't let me in. I mean, he wasn't nasty or anything, he just pretended I wasn't there. After church the pastor asked if there were problems at home and I told him there were. He made an appointment for me later this afternoon. I sure need to talk to him about what's going on."
Dinner was a fun time. We talked about all we had gotten done in the past week and laid out the week to come. Monday, Wednesday and Friday, Kent would go in to Case Western Reserve by himself. He, Larry and Luke had classes there Tuesday and Thursday and, of course, I would be going to Holtkamp.
ASP--The Oberlin Five--Chapter Five--Kent
Just before we finished dinner, remembering I had an appointment with Pastor Jensen, I asked if I could borrow transportation. "Kent," Luke said, "I told you before, you don't borrow a vehicle... if you have a need for it, it's yours--and you have a need for one. Think you should take my truck because, should we decide to do something this afternoon, Eugene's car or Matt's Jeep would hold the rest of us. The truck would not."
"Thanks, Luke. I'm having a hard time getting used to the idea that I am as much a part of this as anyone else. Thanks for reminding me."
My appointment was for 3:30 and I arrived a few minutes before. Pastor Jensen was waiting for me in his study. "Sorry to have to have you come out Sunday afternoon," I said as I shook hands with him.
"Must admit that I usually spend Sunday afternoon flaked out. May not seem like hard work but by the time I have finished the Sunday service, I am just wiped out. But I ate lunch and took a nap rather than just half-watching TV so I'm ok. Tell me what's going on. I couldn't help but notice you weren't sitting with your family. I spoke to your father about it and he said there was no problem."
"I guess he thinks there's not and maybe he's right, but I don't agree. I have left home and won't be going back. I guess that's not a problem for him but, to be honest, it is a problem for me." I then told Pastor what had happened and why. "So he has forbidden me to come home and so long as I can see Mom and Derrick, I don't care."
"You don't care? Are you sure?"
"Why should I care? Dad has never been a father to me. He has always rejected me, put me down. Nothing I ever do pleases him. He didn't want me from the beginning and that hasn't changed. No, I don't care." That's what I said but, inside, I know it was a lie. I wanted more than anything for Dad to put his arm around me and tell me he approved of something I had done, that I had made him proud, that he loved me. Strange, I knew I had tried to get my dad to approve of me but, for the first time, I really felt how very much, how very, very much I wanted that. I felt hot tears welling up in my eyes and fought to keep them back.
"Big boys and real men don't cry," I heard Dad's voice as clearly as if he was standing beside me. "You'll never be a real man, Kent, because you're nothing but a crybaby," the voice continued. Well, I tried to hold back the tears but, as had always happened for eighteen years, I failed and heard Dad's voice saying, "See, I told you". That did it. Hot, scalding tears flowed down my face in spite of all my efforts to stop them. I hung my head, ashamed, because once again my dad was proven right. I wasn't even a big boy, much less a man.
"Let it out, Kent, let it all out," Pastor Jensen said softly.
"But big boys and real men don't cry," I said, still crying in spite of all I could do to stop.
"I don't know about big boys and real men, but I tell you one thing: human beings, real human beings, cry when they hurt and I sense you are hurting. Only unfeeling people don't cry. Let it out."
That really broke the floodgates. I was crying so hard I was shaking all over. Great sobs escaped my throat. Pastor Jensen got up, walked over to me and put his arm around me. "Let it all out, Son," he said. His calling me son brought fresh tears and I was boohooing like a little kid. "That's right," he said, "let it out from the time you were just a kid."
I don't know how long, out of control, I cried in great sobs. Pastor handed me a tissue and then passed the box to me. When I had finally cried myself out, I looked at him and said, "I have never cried like that my whole life. I think I might have gotten control, but when you called me son, I couldn't handle it. I have never heard my father call me son or, if he has, it has been a put down."
"Kent, your father has a real problem which he is going to have to work on and solve himself. Neither you nor I can do that for him. I will, if he will allow it, help him all I can, but he has to do the work himself. Same with you. You'll have to work through your hurt and anger and forgive your father if you are ever to have a good relationship with him. I'll work with you both if you and he will permit it. If he won't, I'll work with you."
"Thank you, Pastor. I would like to do that." We set up a series of appointments--one a week--for the next six weeks.
As I got up to leave, he hugged me to himself and asked, "How do you feel, Kent?".
"Better than I have in a while," I answered, shook his hand and left.
When I got back to the house, I told the gang what had happened. "Good, glad you are getting help," Eugene said. "Gene and I have really been helped by therapy."
"Yea, but we still have a ways to go," Larry said.
ASP--The Oberlin Five--Chapter Five--Matt
Monday was Labor Day and we decided we'd make it a real holiday and not just a free day at home. We urged Kent to call Christine and ask her to go with us for a boat trip to an island in the lake and to an amusement park afterward. Luke suggested he also call Derrick and ask him to join us. "I'll pick him up so you won't have to go to his place," Luke added.
"He has a girl," Kent said, "would it be all right if she comes?"
"Sure," Luke said.
Eugene and I packed a picnic while Luke called a boat rental place and made arrangements for a cruise on the lake, having found out we didn't have time for a trip to the island. We knew the amusement park would be crowded, but we thought that would just add to the fun.
Luke left for the Glaze place about 9:00 and came back with Derrick and a very attractive young girl, Judy Duvall. While Luke made that trip, Kent went to pick up Christine. We were finally ready to go at 10:00, arriving at the boat dock at 11:00. We planned to have the picnic on the boat since we had asked for a three-hour cruise.
The cruise was really fun, something those of us from Concord had never done. Judy was really fun, reminding us of Mary Kathryn. She was witty, bright and very determined. It was obvious, however, that she and Derrick were just good friends and not lovers as were Michael and Mary Kathryn.
Christine was fun, but not nearly as alive as Kent. She just didn't seem his type. A clinging vine, she hung on Kent all the time. I just didn't see them as a couple. Of course, Kent had said they were just friends. As the day wore on, she made more and more effort to have Kent make out with her and I thought he was resisting more and more.
It was mid-afternoon before we got to the amusement park. As we had thought, it was crowded. In fact, it was so crowded that there were lines waiting for all the rides. By 5:00, we had all had it with waiting in line for very short rides. I was sure the operators kept making the rides shorter and shorter to make more money. "How about going home and cooking out?" Paula asked.
"Sounds good," Larry said.
When we got home, Eugene and I got food ready for a cookout while the others were playing on the beach. The guys had gathered wood for a bonfire later and they were playing catch on the beach. Paula and the two girls were sitting watching and talking. As soon as the food was ready, Eugene and I went to the beach and joined in the game.
"Luke, have you renewed your sunscreen?" I asked, shortly after Eugene and I had joined the game.
"Thanks for reminding me," Luke said, "as a matter of fact, I haven't." He brought me the bottle and asked that I do his back. As I did, he said, "Matt, you keep your hands moving like that and I may jump your bones right here in front of God and everybody!" He looked over his shoulder and smiled.
"We'll discuss this further tonight, alone," I smiled.
"Not sure it will be a long discussion," Luke said. "I want action, not words!"
Eugene called to me about sundown and he and I got the grill and charcoal and took them to the beach where he started the fire. We went back to the house for the food and, as soon as the grill was ready, started cooking.
Kent left early enough to get Christine home before her midnight curfew and Luke took Derrick and Judy home at the same time. Those of us left behind cleaned up and put things away. Luke and I took a long shower together, the beginning of long, drawn-out foreplay which ended with wonderful love-making. When we had finally exhausted ourselves, I cuddled in Luke's arms, kissed him softly and drifted off to sleep.
Tuesday morning we all started in the routine of classes and daily responsibilities at the house which would be ours for for the fall semester. Tuesdays and Thursdays were rough for me--and for Luke, Larry and Kent--since I found I needed to stay at Holtkamp until five, and by the time I picked them up and we got home, it was close to 7:00. That first week, Eugene and I still had to prepare supper, so it was close to 8:30 before we could eat and then I had to prepare for next day's classes. Of course the others who had been in Cleveland had much of the day to prepare there. It was long after midnight before I got to bed. Luke said he would wait up for me, but I urged him to go on to bed. Both nights he was sound asleep when I got in bed. Thursday night he had another nightmare--not as bad as the earlier one, but bad enough to get me really worried.
The next couple weeks followed the same pattern of work and school. Of course I wasn't cooking but, nonetheless, my schedule left me very little time for anything except school and Holtkamp. I felt I was short-changing Luke, but he assured me the schedule would lighten up. I sure hoped so.
By the time we got home Friday afternoon of the third week of school, I had pretty much had it. When Eugene suggested the guys take in a movie, I started to say I didn't want to go, but Luke said it was a good idea before I said anything, so I went along.
The theater was almost full so we couldn't find five seats together. We finally found four together in the middle of the theater and there was one in front of the four. The two couples took the four seats, of course, and Kent sat in front of us. There were six guys a few rows down and, when he saw them, Kent turned around and said, "Now there's trouble looking for a place to happen," but didn't elaborate.
The movie wasn't particularly good and, since we were surrounded, Luke and I couldn't even make out. We did hold hands and once I laid my head on his shoulder, but then thought better of it. As we got up to leave, the six guys were walking up the aisle. Kent said, "There go six number one assholes. They are into everything. Their leader is Shawn Hendrick. His brother Sim is a policeman and rumor has it that he covers for Shawn."
As we walked toward Eugene's car, we saw the six by it. As soon as we got closer, it was obvious the six were spray-painting something on it. "Hey, what the hell do you think you are doing?" Eugene shouted as we started running toward the car. Spray-painted several times on the car was "faggot".
As soon as the six saw us, they quickly formed a line. "We're making sure everyone knows you are all fucking faggots," one of the said with a sneer. "Want to do something about it?"
"As a matter of fact I do," Eugene said, walking toward them.
"We all do," Kent said.
"Heard you were a cocksucker, Glaze. Not surprised to see you hanging out with these shitpackers. Saw them a week or so ago, smooching like lovebirds in the back row of the theater. We don't like having queers around here." As he spoke, the six had been slowly moving toward us and when he finished, they rushed us. Each time I had seen Eugene in action, I couldn't believe how fast he was. Kent sure could move was well. Before I got a chance to get into the action, each had put one of the thugs on the ground. The one Eugene sent down didn't try to get up, but the one Kent had sent to the dirt was ready to jump Luke from behind in seconds. I grabbed him by the collar, spun him around and landed a good one on his nose. It immediately started bleeding and he grabbed it and started running.
Larry and Kent had taken care of two more who decided to run, leaving three. Kent and Luke grabbed one, put him on the ground and Luke put his knee in his back, holding him down. Kent, Larry and I started toward the other two when one of them pulled a long knife. "You three take care of the unarmed one. This asshole is mine!" Before he knew what hit him the knife-carrying jerk was on his knees, crying, and his knife had sailed through the air some distance from him. "Well, we have half of them," Eugene said as he shoved the guy to the ground and placed his knee in his back.
"Don't worry about the three who got away. I know them," Kent said. "And there they go," he said as a car screamed out of the parking lot. As the car left, a police car drove up. It had to slow down as a crowd had surrounded us, watching the fight.
The car stopped and two officers got out and walked toward us. "Shawn, what's going on here?"
"There five guys jumped us when we came out of the theater," the guy under Luke's knee said.
"Guess you five need to come with me," the officer said.
"Don't think so, Sim," Kent said. "Your darling brother and his five buddies were spray-painting my friend's car when we came out and, when we walked over, they attacked us. They are the ones going downtown.
"You're lying, Glaze. You and your faggot friends attacked us for no reason."
"We'll settle this downtown. Shawn, get up and go home. You four step over here. Glaze, you're a local boy so I think you just better hit it on home yourself. Why don't you just hop in that fag car and get the hell out of here before I run you in too?"
The two officers had the four of us lean against their car, patted us down and then used plastic ties to tie our hands behind our back. "Shawn, I told you to go home," the officer said.
"I can't, Sim. Lewis took my car.'
"Well, call him and tell him to get back here. You don't need to be around. Jack, you can take two of these faggots downtown and I will stay here with the other two until you get back." I looked at Kent and indicated that he should go by swinging my head around.
"Officer, why are you arresting those four? They didn't do anything except defend themselves. I saw it all," a woman in the crowd called out.
"You don't know what the fuck you saw, old bitch. Shut your mouth or you'll be keeping these four company."
"Ok, Glaze, get gone. Shawn, you better get out of here as well. You two, go with Jack," the officer said to Eugene and Luke, shoving them toward the patrol car. As he went to put them in the patrol car, Larry said, quietly, "Kent, go and call everyone you can think of. I think we are in really big trouble." Kent nodded, took the keys Eugene tossed to him and drove off.
ASP--The Oberlin Five--Chapter Five--Larry
As we started walking toward the car, Matt started shaking as tears ran down his cheeks. "When will it end? he asked. "We hurt no-one or anything and we were attacked and we get arrested. And, except for the one elderly lady, the crowd stood by and did and said nothing. When will it end?"
I put my arm around him and said, "Matt, they attacked us for no reason and that pisses me off but, to tell the truth, the crowd didn't have time to do much. It was all over almost before it started. That Kent is one fast dude," and laughed.
"Yea, he is almost as fast as that Eugene dude," and Matt smiled weakly.
The crowd had disappeared except for an elderly couple. The woman was the one who had spoken up earlier. She walked very close to us and, as she passed, slipped a piece of paper into my pocket, looked at me and smiled.
Sim Hendrick walked back to where we were and as he swaggered up said, "You faggots talk like hillbillies. We don't like hillbillies in our town and we don't like queers, and we really don't like hillbilly queers." As he spoke, he grabbed Matt by the chin, forced his head back and half-talked, half-spit in Matt's face. Matt lost it and started struggling. I knew at once that was a mistake as Officer Hendrick kneed him in the balls. Matt collapsed on the ground, drew himself into the fetal position and moaned. I wanted to bust the son of a bitch one, but knew that with my hands behind my back I could do nothing.
Jack finally came back and took Matt and me to the police station and tossed us into a dirty, filthy, smelly cell. Luke and Eugene were in the cell across the narrow passageway. The other two cells in the small jail held Friday night drunks whose cheap booze was in evidence as they kept throwing up. A couple leaned against the wall and pissed on the floor, adding to the stench which was already terrible. I was surprised we had not been searched, but in case they decided to make up for overlooking it, I took the paper from my pocket and tucked it under the edge of the filthy mattress resting on a steel shelf attached to the wall.
The jailor came back and did pat us down, taking what we had in our pockets and putting it in envelopes. When he left, we started talking quietly and Matt was just still pretty much out of it--he was incoherent, he was so out of control. The jailor came back and told us to shut up and dimmed the lights. It seemed hours, but it was just 1:00 when Kent and a very distinguished man came back with the jailor. "I'm Lem Aldridge," the man said. "For the time being, I'm your lawyer. It took some doing, but we have you released without bond so you can go home and get some sleep. I'll come out to your place in the morning around 11:00. We've got a real mess on our hands, but maybe it's for the good."
When we got home, Paula was waiting for us, as upset as I had ever seen her. She grabbed all of us and kept hugging us and crying. We went over and over the night, trying to make sense out of it. Matt had gotten very quiet and just sat staring, occasionally saying, "When will it end?". Luke held him close and stroked his hair, soothing him.
"Look," Kent said, "there's nothing we can do tonight and it's almost three in the morning. Now let's see if we can get some sleep." We all nodded and slowly dragged ourselves to bed. "Damn," Luke said to Eugene, "what the hell did we do to deserve this?"
"Just who the hell said we deserved it?" he asked as he kicked the wall. Needless to say, none of us slept very well.
ASP--The Oberlin Five--Chapter Five--Luke
I had never seen Matt in the condition he was in. I had been told how he was when he learned about my second suicide attempt, but hadn't seen it. I could hardly believe the shaking, sobbing man in bed with me was Matt. I guess he finally wore himself out because finally he was--about 4.00 or so--asleep. I was able to get to sleep shortly afterward, but it was certainly not peaceful sleep. I kept dreaming I was in that filthy cell as months passed.
It was 10:00 the next morning when Paula came upstairs and called us, telling us we needed to get up and get dressed. Matt was a wreck, and I was little better, as we got up. There was a tap on the door and Kent said, "Guys, I have finished with the bathroom if you want to come across the hall."
"Thanks, Kent," I said and guided Matt across the hall. By the time we had showered, he was in better shape but still not at his best but, then, neither was I. We dressed without saying very much. When we were ready to go down, I took Matt in my arms, held him tightly and kissed him tenderly. "Remember, Sarang Hanun Pomul, we can handle anything life throws our way so long as we have each other."
"Yonghon Tongmu, just how much more can life throw our way?" I had no answer so I just kissed Matt again, took his hand and we walked downstairs.
The four sitting around the kitchen table did nothing to lighten my mood. All were drinking coffee and had not bothered with anything else. There was no talk and everyone was just sitting, blank looks on their faces, staring with unseeing eyes.
When the doorbell rang, Eugene got up and went to answer it. He came back to the kitchen with Mr. Aldridge. As he entered the kitchen he smiled weakly, "I guess 'Good morning' wouldn't go down so well today. Wish I could tell you everything's ok, but I can't. We need to do some serious talking and get to work."
"Coffee?" Paula asked and, when Mr. Aldridge nodded, she poured a mug and asked, "Cream and sugar?".
"Black. And I hope it's strong."
"Well, at least you'll find that's ok, I suspect," she said as she set the mug down before him.
"Is this ok, or do we need to go somewhere else?" Eugene asked.
"I think this is fine," Mr. Aldridge said. "I can spread out anything I have to right here. Ok, I guess you know that you have gotten yourself in a real mess. Clearly, the six attacked you, but you have learned how things operate in Waterside. Stay out of there. Go somewhere else. It may be a bit out of your way, but you'll be going to Oberlin and can do shopping and movie-going there or somewhere else. Bypass it on your way in to Cleveland if you have been going through it. Under no circumstances are you to go back except under my direct instructions. It is very important that you understand you do not go back to that town or even drive through it. Kent told me that you four are gay and I don't know how that was accepted where you came from..."
"We had some problems in the beginning, but they didn't last. Sure there are still some people who don't like it, but they're no real problem," Eugene said.
"You are lucky then. A lot of people think, since it is in the north, Ohio is more liberal than the 'bigoted south'," he looked up and smiled, "but I can tell you Ohio, especially the small towns, is about as close-mined as you can get--and Waterside ranks at the top of the list. By the way, you were sure lucky that Sim Hendrick let Kent go. I'm not sure why he did, other than the fact that he saw him as one of the local boys. Kent called Pastor Jensen, who knows what's going on, and he called me, otherwise you'd still be in jail and I'm not sure what shape you would have been in. People have been badly hurt who shouldn't have been in jail, but were. I want to be very up front with you and ask for your help and hope you will give it, although I can see why you might not."
"Right now, the town is under the control of a bunch of white racists. They hate four groups: in their words, hillbillies, niggers, wetbacks and faggots. There has always been a small black community on the wrong side of the tracks, but a few years ago middle class African-Americans left the inner city and came to the suburbs. A new group of African-Americans were showing up in the more up-scale communities, shops and other places. They were resented because they have made something of themselves. Most have not stayed. I mean if you move out of the projects to escape gunfire, why spend half a million for a house and learn you can expect gunfire and cross-burning?"
"Southerners, all of whom are called hillbillies, have also been a presence in the town, having come here in the fifties looking for work. They pretty much kept to themselves for a generation, by then they looked and talked like the natives but were still resented because they had 'invaded' the town. The latest group arriving is Hispanics, mostly Mexicans. They are resented because they are different. Like the hillbillies, they talk funny. There are complaints about them taking jobs, but that's not true--or wasn't--because no-one would take the jobs they took. Now, of course, they are working their way up the ladder and those they are leaving behind resent it. Gays? Well, there's two things going on there. First there are the churches--and I hate to say this--which preach hatred of gays. You've, no doubt, seen the slogans and maybe even heard the diatribes. Unfortunately, the churches which accept--or at least tolerate--gays are in the minority. The store-front churches and so-called Christian Right are definitely in the majority. Additionally, they have been, and are, manipulated by cynical politicians."
"The outcome of all this was a very dirty political campaign four years ago, which played the race and hate card very well--sometimes openly, especially when aimed at the poorly educated and the Christian Right. At other times it was much more subtle. The result was a group, who might as well wear white sheets, gained control of the town..."
"I thought that was the shame of the South," Matt spoke for the first time.
"As much as some would like to think otherwise, the South has actually been more tolerant of difference than a lot of other places," Mr. Aldridge continued. "So a group of racists is in control. They control the police, the city council and mayor. Not only are they stirring up hatred all the time, but they are also busy lining their pockets and, of course, have police cooperation. You have experienced one of the results of a town being run by a hate group. There have been plenty of complaints, but those who have complained have often become victims of those in control. Few, now, dare speak out. But complaints have finally been heard by the state police and they have called in the FBI for help. Pastor Jensen has been involved from the first in the investigation. He has--Kent, do you know this?--found a few trusted teenagers to purchase liquor from convenience stores that have paid off the police so they can sell alcohol to minors. He knew I was working behind the scenes and called me when Kent called him last night. Sooo, I'd like to do two things if you agree. First, I'd like to handle your case. I'll expect my regular fee, which will be $200 for each of you. Sounds stiff, but that's actually less than most would charge. I'll do what I would do in any case such as yours and the fee proves it's on the up and up. Can you handle that?"
"I'll write a check if that's acceptable," Paula said, since we had made her house treasurer and bookkeeper.
"Sure, when you get around to it. Now that I am officially retained by you, I'll file some charges. In regard to the police treatment of you, I will draft a complaint charging your civil rights have been violated and file it with the right people--that's a federal charge. I'll also file charges against those who attacked you--for assault with the intend to do bodily harm and for damaging your personal property, the car. I think the latter would be better handled as a civil case since what we want out of it is money to repair the car plus money to pay your attorney's fees and for your suffering. By the way, Matt, there will be a separate civil rights charge against Sim Hendrick, one of police brutality, for his treatment of you. He may have given you a knee in the balls, but before the federal boys are through with him, he'll wonder if he has any left--balls that is. These charges will all be filed, but when and with whom is up in the air right now because of the situation in Waterside. To file them openly right now would jeopardize the ongoing investigation I mentioned."
"The second thing is I'd like to have you help getting the evidence we need against the police and one judge. There is a young honest judge working with us, but the old judge is a part of the bunch controlling the town. I will be honest, there is some danger involved, but I think we can offer protection to keep you safe."
We looked at each other and it was obvious that all six of us--Kent was very much with us--were suddenly alive. "I don't think you could stop us if you wanted to," I said. "I'll tell you as well, we are a pretty good team when it comes to a fight like this."
"Great! For now, I'll take you in to see the chief of police and ask that the charges be reduced to disturbing the peace. If necessary, I'll find some excuse to leave if he doesn't ask for a pay-off, so you suggest it--but be careful. If he agrees, he'll take you to see the judge. They will discuss your case and the judge will, if he follows his usual practice, hint that he is looking at jail time for you. The chief will suggest a fine and the judge will ask what is in it for him and, sooner or later, will suggest he give you a small fine instead of jail if he receives a pay-off. I don't need to be there since I am an officer of the court but, if I am, I'll file the complaint and have it held until we are ready to move. We need all this on tape, so all four of you will be wearing a wire. We're also trying to get a video so I will have a hidden camera in my briefcase. I'll take the briefcase in and if I don't get to go to the judge with you, you might pick it up to bring to me. Are you game?"
I looked around and saw that all of us were aching to go since we had all half-risen from our seats.
"Hold on, wait just a minute," Mr. Aldridge said. "I'll have to check out some things first." Having said that, he took his cell phone from his briefcase and dialed a number. "Hi, Chief, how's it going? ... Well, I'm here with my clients from last night. Appreciate you letting them out of jail... Well, Chief, I was wondering if we could discuss their case... Sounds great. Meet you in your office at 4:30. Think Judge Harrison might show up in his chambers as well? I'd like to get this out of the way. Doesn't pay very good money, you know, and it could take up time I could be making a lot more. Yea, they came up with my fee. They are college kids, but I think they have money... Well, not enough to give me a huge fee... I know... see you at 4:30."
"I'm doing a balancing act there," he said as he folded his phone. I wanted him to know you weren't broke, but also didn't want him to think you were rolling in money or he would have upped his price. Actually, from all we have found out, he and Judge Harrison might as well have a price list posted on their wall. This is going to cost you plenty, but the alternative is jail. The chief will expect $250 from each of you--minimum, I suspect--as will the judge. Can you come up with that?"
"Well, we can, but that's sure going to take a bite out of our budget," Paula said.
"And it will need to be cash," the lawyer said.
"That will be a problem since it's Saturday," Larry said, "and the ATM will only give out $300 per person per day."
"Get what you can," Mr. Aldridge said, "and write me a check for the balance. I can get the manager at one of the banks to get the cash. He's in on the plan to overthrow this despotic reign we're living under. It really cuts into new business and housing. As a matter of fact, you just write one check for the whole thing if you can and don't bother with the ATMs."
"Separate checks ok?" Eugene asked.
"Better. And make each one include my fee. That way, should anyone question it, it is my fee. Ok, I'll run back to town. Here's my card, I'll meet you at my office at 3:30--that's an hour and a half from now. If I could get the checks, I'll get the money. I need to do that and get things set up." While we wrote the checks, Mr. Aldridge make a phone call to the manager of the bank and arranged to meet him in half an hour. "Well, I've done all I can do here," he said, as he pocketed the checks. "See you at 3:00. Paula, I suggest you and Kent stay here and man the phone should we need anything. By the way, don't drive the car in since it is known. Hope you got the paint off at least."
"I got most of it off last night," Kent said, "but it will take professionals to complete the job."
"I hope we get money to do that out of the bunch who did it when this is over," Mr. Aldridge said. "Well, I'm on my way," he continued as he shook hands all around.
"Oh, I forgot," Larry said. "While I was standing around after the police arrived last night, a woman who had spoken out put a note in my pocket. Here it is. I haven't looked at it."
He opened the note and read, "We saw everything. Contact us."
He looked up, puzzled, "That's all. No phone number or way to contact them. Not much help I guess."
"Not surprised there's no way to find out who wrote it," Mr. Aldridge said. "She knew you were going to end up in jail and couldn't risk exposure."
"Who gave that to you?" Kent asked.
"The woman who spoke out," Larry replied.
"I guess she hoped I would know about the note," Kent said. "Mr. Aldridge, it was Lucy Metcalf. Jim was with her. She spoke out, but was told she'd be in jail if she didn't shut up."
"I'll give them a call. Maybe we've got more going for us than we thought. Well, I've got to get to town."
When he had gone, we finally got something to eat although no-one really felt like it--but Paula insisted. "Man, this is going to put a real dent in the budget," Larry said.
"Sure will," Matt agreed, "but I don't think we have a whole range of choices. I'm sure sorry we got you two into this," he said, looking at Kent and Paula.
"We're in this, as everything else, together," Paula said.
"Agreed," Kent added.
"Think we should call the family?" I asked.
"Not yet," Eugene said. "Let's see what happens first. If we called now they would just worry and there's nothing they can do."
"Sounds right," I agreed. "Don't know about the rest of you, but I think I need to shower and shave." There were nods around the table and the four jailbirds went upstairs to take care of that.
We found Mr. Aldridge's office after making a couple wrong turns, but arrived at 3:00 nonetheless. When we walked in, he was on the phone and motioned us to sit down. "Everything's in place?" he asked and then nodded. "Ok, the kids are here so I'll get them briefed while you come over."
He hung up the phone and said, "Agent Perkins of the Ohio Bureau of Investigation and Agent Haines of the FBI are on their way over. They will get you wired and make sure the wires and the hidden camera are working. Things have been moving faster than we expected. Seems the Ohio Bureau got a tip that the Metcalfs might be roughed up. They stationed some of their people at the Metcalfs' house and, sure enough, your two cop friends showed up. The Bureau people had time to get the Metcalfs wired so the whole threatening conversation is on tape. When things looked as if they might get rough, a couple of the agents went to the house, pretending to be visitors from out of state, and the two cops left. Agents Perkins and Haines think we've got enough and want to move in at once before someone gets really hurt, but I urged them to hold off a while. Here they are now."
A very well-built black man and a tall, good-looking red-headed woman walked in. "Agent Haines," Mr. Aldridge said, indicating the woman, "this is Larry, Eugene, Luke and Matt. Guys, Agent Sharon Haines of the FBI. She's in charge of their part of this operation. And this is Agent Albert Perkins of the Ohio Bureau of Investigation."
We shook hands all around and Agent Perkins said, "Luke, you look surprised".
"I guess I shouldn't be, but I'm surprised a woman agent is heading up the FBI's operation here."
"It has its advantages," she smiled. "Ok, let's get you wired and checked out." She and Agent Perkins went to work and soon had us wired. The devises were much smaller than I thought. They would be hard to find unless the person doing the search was very careful. Agent Haines then opened a case about the size of a briefcase, picked up a pair or headphones and had Mr. Aldridge and Agent Perkins speak as she turned a dial. "Ok, the wires are working fine. Guess we're set to go."
"I've got the money," Mr. Aldridge said as he opened a desk drawer. "I have a list of the serial numbers which I have recorded. You can all witness that I have the correct numbers," he said, and began calling them out as we checked the bills he had given us.
"Before you put it away," Agent Perkins said, "I'd like to dust it. I have powder that won't be noticed, but glows under UV light." He spread the bills on the desk and sprinkled a powder over them and then returned the bills to us.
"It's 4:20," Mr. Aldridge said. "Time to go." We rode in his car to the police station.
When we walked in, the policeman on duty barely looked up and motioned us to the chief's office. As soon as we were inside, the chief said, "Close the door. Well, I see we have the four who attacked some innocent boys and resisted arrest last night. I have a string of charges against you four."
"Now, Chief, I don't think we want all those charges against such young people. Perhaps we can compromise a bit. How about reducing the charges to one count of disturbing the peace and seeing if Judge Harrison won't impose a fine."
"Don't know about that. The city gets the fine and I get nothing for having my officers risk their lives. Hear there was a knife involved."
"Don't know where that came from, Chief," Mr. Aldridge said as he set his briefcase down on a table beside the door. It had a clear view of the chief and his desk. We all sorta stepped aside to make sure we weren't blocking the view. "Hated to ask you to come down Saturday afternoon to discuss this, taking up your valuable time."
"My time is valuable and I'll have to spend more rewriting tickets. It's not worth my while just to do you a favor, Lem. Now if there were some money to appear here"--he tapped his desk--"then it might be worth my while."
I was amazed at how brazen the chief was. He had all but asked for a bribe!
Mr. Aldridge turned to us and held up a finger and mouthed, one hundred. The four of us each took a hundred dollar bill from our wallets and laid it on the desk, making sure we kept clear of the camera's view. "You must think my time's not worth much," the Chief said and held up two fingers. We each added another hundred on the stack. When we had done that, the chief swept the money into his pocket. "You know, I think I have lost the tickets my boys wrote last night and will have to write new ones. You were charged with a misdemeanor, disturbing the peace, right?" We nodded and the chief pulled out a ticket book and wrote four tickets, handing us the originals.
When he finished, he said, "Lem, I think Judge Harrison happens to be in this afternoon. Why don't we go to his chambers and see if we can get this all straightened out today so these young people can go home and not come back to Waterside. I don't think the atmosphere here is healthy for their kind."
Mr. Aldridge picked up his briefcase and we walked across the street to the town hall. When the Chief opened the door, we walked into the judge's chambers. Sitting behind a huge desk was a grossly obese man. Little pig eyes, almost hidden by the bags and wrinkles, looked at us from his puffy face. His red bulbous nose was a clear indication that the water glass on his desk didn't hold iced tea.
"Judge, these four guys got into a little fracas at the theater last night and got themselves charged with disturbing the peace. They came by today to get it straightened out; here's the tickets."
The judge seemed to rouse himself enough to glance at the tickets. "Disturbing the peace, huh? We like our town the way it is and don't like outsiders creating a disturbance. A few days in jail will teach you all a lesson."
"Judge, these young men are college students and time in jail would be a hardship. How about a fine?" Mr. Aldridge asked.
"Don't know about that, Lem. I mean they disturbed the town's peace and mine as well. I had planned to spend the afternoon sitting by my pool just relaxing peaceful-like but, no, I had to come down here. My peace was disturbed. My time for relaxing and being peaceful is valuable."
"Just how valuable, Judge?" Lem asked. I noticed he had set his briefcase down on the edge of the judge's desk--getting a perfect shot, I was sure, of what was going on."
"How valuable was your time, Chief?" the judge asked, looking at the chief and smiling.
"Well, Judge, there are four of them and I think my time was worth about $200 each," and laughed.
"Seems reasonable," the judge said. "A fifty dollar fine each and two hundred for my time."
"And the fine will show up in the court record?" Lem asked. "Where's the court recorder?"
The judge pulled a book from his desk, wrote in it and signed it. "There. That's taken care of."
"You signed the recorder's name?"
"Sure. Do it all the time. Saves her a trip on Saturday. Young men, I don't want to see your faces in my court or my town again. Understand?"
The four of us all said, "Yes, sir."
"Well. Judge, maybe you can get in a few hours relaxation," Mr. Aldridge said. "Guys, let's go."
We left the town hall and went back to Mr. Aldridge's office, where the two agents were waiting. "Lem, you couldn't have staged that better. We got every word on tape. Let's check the video," Agent Haines said.
Lem opened his briefcase and took out the camera, then the tape. He popped the tape in a VCR and, unlike most hidden camera tapes I had seen, the picture and sound were perfect. Mr. Aldridge and the two agents were ecstatic as they watched. "Good job, guys, Agent Perkins said. "Let's get the wires off you and we'll follow you out of town to make sure you're not followed or anything. We really appreciate what you have done. You should be proud of yourselves."
"Thanks," we all said.
"I'm worried about that elderly couple, the Metcalfs," Matt said. "After what we've seen, I don't think any of those running the town will like having their gravy train derailed."
"I must say, your concern makes me think even more of you," Agent Haines said, "but not to worry. We have two agents assigned to their home until we are sure they are safe. Lem, I think we should move now."
"I don't. Why not wait until tomorrow afternoon? You have to get warrants for arrests and we want to make sure we get all of them at once, otherwise some will slip through the net. If you wait until everyone's relaxing Sunday afternoon, you'll have to time to get the warrants, get extra agents in and strike at the same time. You'll need agents to be watching the whole rotten bunch so, when the signal comes, you get them all."
"He's right, Sharon," Agent Perkins said.
"I see your point, Lem. I guess I just wanted the whole rotten mess over as quickly as possible. Again, guys, we really appreciate your cooperation and, by the way, don't worry about your record. The charge will be erased as soon as we get the operation over. Al, let's get these young people home."
"Before we leave," Larry said, "we need to call Paula and Kent and let them know we're ok."
"Sure," Mr. Aldridge said. While Larry was phoning, we talked with the two agents about why we were in Ohio and what started our involvement in Waterside.
"We just have to get hate crime laws on the books," Agent Haines said. "Until we do, people and groups are going to be fair game for bigots."
Agent Perkins nodded in agreement and added, "Just because we root out the official bigots in Waterside, we won't get rid of the prejudice and hatred sowed here. I hope you realize that and that Lem has warned you to steer clear of this place even after the arrests are made."
"He has warned us," I said, "but I guess I thought that would change with the arrests."
"Nope. It won't change until the good people of the town decide it has to change. Stay away is my advice."
"By the way," Lem said, "these four have a pretty stiff investment in the rotten police and judge here, although they got by with less than I expected. Don't know why."
"Could be you aren't trusted as much as you might think," Agent Perkins said, "but, guys, you'll get your money back in time--except, I guess, Lem's fee."
Mr. Aldridge laughed, "I guess I owe them that for the job they did," as he took bills from his pocket and gave them to us. "I and Waterside owe you a lot more than that," he said. "Well, time to go. I'll lead you out of town just to make sure you're not followed."
When we got home, Paula and Kent ran out to meet us, hugging us as if we had been gone for a month. "We were so worried about you," Paula said. "Kent says the guys who attacked you are real trouble and, with the police behind them, well, I was worried."
"I must admit I was worried too," Kent said, "but nothing like Mother Paula." Kent laughed and hugged Paula. "I thought I was going to have to hold her down a time or two to keep her from driving in and cleaning up Waterside single-handed."
Paula laughed and said, "If I don't look after all you wild guys, who will?"
When we sat down to supper, we went over the entire afternoon with Paula and Kent. "I guess we'll find out the outcome on tomorrow night's news. Sure hope they get the entire bunch and get them good," Eugene said. "And I also hope we get our money back. It's not going to be cheap getting my car back in shape."
"Won't your insurance take care of that?" Kent asked.
"I guess it will, except for the $500 deductible. But I sure saw a lot going out the window today and I just hope we do get it back--although I guess it is worth what it cost to get the town cleaned up."
"Yea, but it's not cleaned up," Matt said. "You heard what Lem and the agents said. They may get the town leaders who give a kind of official approval to bigotry and prejudice, but the townspeople have got to get rid of bigotry and that's not easy. You can't arrest someone for being a bigot. And what did we do to get into the mess? We held hands and exchanged a few kisses in a movie, for God's sake. Big crime! Paula, you and Kent could have been sitting exactly where we were and done everything except fuck like bunnies and no-one would have said a thing. Hell, I could have picked up a girl outside the theater, paid her to neck with me and no-one would have said anything." It was easy to see Matt was really enraged. "Here we were, Luke and I married--as married as society will let us be--and Eugene and Larry forty times as committed to each other as half the people living together in Waterside, and we sit in the back row of a movie and make out, pretty calm and discrete--at least we damn well thought it was discrete--and what happens? Couple weeks later, Eugene has his car vandalized and the four of us--well five, because Kent was right in there with us--are attacked by six asshole bullies--one with a darn frigging knife."
I reached out and took Matt's hand and said, "Babe, it's a damn rotten shame, but that's the way it is. You've got to learn to let it slide off your back if you can't do anything about it. And we did do something about it. I think society's attitude is, generally, shitty and I hate our love being the butt of bigots' jokes and hatred but, today, because of our love and because we are willing to stand up and be counted, a town stands on the threshold of becoming a better place. Maybe, just maybe, our putting ourselves on the line will encourage others to be like the Metcalfs and make their town a decent place for all kinds of people. But hearts have to change, not just laws and leaders."
"Yea, but good laws can change hearts," Eugene said. "Look at what has been accomplished by civil rights laws. Now we need to have those laws to cover us."
"Kent, if you haven't figured it out, Matt can't cuss worth a damn, but his heart is in the right place and he's his father's son in a lot of ways--in good ways," Paula laughed.
"Yea," Larry added, "and you may as well know, this bunch has fought prejudice since we have been together and it looks like it's a part of us."
"I kinda got that idea," Kent laughed. "Well, so much for a peaceful Saturday. I think we all need to relax after being so uptight for twenty-four hours. How about a movie?" Kent started laughing, but stopped short when all four of us got up from the table and put him on the floor. We wrestled around for a bit and then helped each other up.
"Glad you children broke it up before Mother Paula had to take control," Paula laughed. "But, guys, I think you need to call home now that you have something to tell your parents. Kent, in case your name gets brought up in the news, you might better call as well."
We all went into the family room and put on some relaxing music and then, one at a time, called home. After I had talked to Mom and Dad, I got Michael and Mary Kathryn on the speaker-phone and Matt and I both talked with them. Seems they had their hands full getting things going at school and Michael was still having problems with Christopher.
When we finished talking with parents, we sat listening to music and talking about nothing in particular until 10.00, and then we went off to bed.
Matt and I undressed each other, taking our time so we could get in a lot of kisses. When we were undressed, I lifted Matt and put him on the bed. As I held him, I could feel the tenseness in his body. "Matt, Sarang Hanun Pomul, you are wound up tight, Babe."
"Luke, I was scared all afternoon when I realized just how big a thing we were involved in and what that police chief or judge might do--could do--and, well, I am still so angry. Yonghon Tongmu, people may say that words don't hurt, but 'faggot', 'queer'--even those words make our love sound cheap or dirty. They brand our love as wrong. But, Luke, how can love be cheap or wrong? And even if they think so, what business is it of theirs? What are they afraid of that they have to put us down?"
"Babe, you know the answers or the lack of answers as well as I do. I wish it were different but it's not, and it's the only world we have to live in. I guess we'll just have to try and make it a better world. But, right now, I'm going to do something about you, Dark Angel." I got up, threw on a robe, grabbed the massage oil and headed downstairs and nuked it. When I got back, Matt was lying on his back staring at the ceiling. This latest adventure had really upset him, a lot more than it had me and a lot more than I would have thought it would Matt. I got a beach towel to cover a place on the bed and lifted my Dark Angel and placed him on it. I massaged his back and shoulders for several long minutes before I could feel his muscles gradually relaxing. When I turned him over, I kissed him softly and started massaging his neck and chest, his shoulders and arms. He was still very tense but, gradually, I could feel his muscles relax.
By the time I finished, my hands and fingers were very tired, but Matt was so relaxed he had fallen asleep. I lay beside him, kissed his forehead gently and rested on an elbow looking at my sleeping Dark Angel. His body glistened with the oil, his black hair was a cloud on his pillow and his handsome face was relaxed and at peace. As long as I had known Matt, I could recall very few times he had been as upset as he had been that night. I really didn't understand it. I was pissed at what had happened. I was angry at the bigotry we had encountered--again--but it ran deeper than that with Matt. Maybe later I would understand it, but right now I was just tired and wanted to snuggle up to my beloved Matt. I turned out the light and lay close to Matt's oiled body, drinking in the fragrance I loved so well, the fragrance of my Dark Angel, the reason I had for living. In the warmth of his body and of his love, I fell asleep and, unlike the night before, I slept peacefully.