ASP--The Oberlin Five--Chapter Sixteen--Matt
Thursday was a day at Holtkamp for me and, of course, Larry and Kent were at Case. Luke took the cell phone so he could be contacted. The plan was if he was contacted, he would call me and I would pick up Larry and Kent at Case. They were to spend the afternoon in the library so I could find them if they were needed. I think we all suspected we would not be called. However, during lunch, Luke called and said we were to be at the courthouse at 1:30. He was leaving immediately with Eugene. I finished lunch and left for Case.
When we got to the courthouse, we were taken into the courtroom. When the trial resumed, Shawn Hendrick was called as a witness for the prosecution.
After he was sworn in, Mr. Greenstreet started questioning him about his involvement with the three officials. He admitted his brother gave him protection for his small-time drug dealing and bullying people. Then Mr. Miller took over.
"Mr. Hendrick, did you have any direct dealing with the three on trial here?"
"Not really, I know just what my brother told me."
"Which, I would point out to the jury is hearsay and not admissible. Mr. Hendrick, were you offered a deal if you testified in this trial?"
Shawn tried to play dumb by responding, "I don't know what you mean about a deal."
"Let me re-phrase the question. Did Mr. Greenstreet tell you that if you would plead guilty to the case against you, and testify in this case, he would get you a lighter sentence?"
"Yea, well, not exactly. He didn't seem too interested in this case. It's all the other cases that I'm to testify in that got me a deal. Wouldn't you do the same?"
"I'm not on trial. But, to make it clear, are you are testifying in order to get off light?"
"I don't call six months in jail and five years probation light," Shawn whined as though the actual sentence he had agreed to had just occurred to him.
"No more questions."
The five of us put our heads together and Eugene said, "I don't see the purpose of having Shawn testify. He had nothing to do with the three officials. I hope they have something better."
"The prosecution calls Sim Hendrick." Sim was sworn in and seemed ill-at-ease.
"Mr. Hendrick, would you state your occupation for the jury."
"I'm a police officer."
"Where, Mr. Hendrick?"
"I was on the force at Waterside."
"I have been suspended without pay."
"Why, Mr. Hendrick?"
"For several reasons, I have been told."
"And do you know what those reasons are?"
"Strange, Mr. Hendrick. Two days ago, when you were in my office, you seemed to have a very clear understanding of why you had been suspended. Now you have forgotten?"
"I wasn't truthful in your office."
"Oh, then I suppose everything we talked about is null and void."
"I don't know what that means."
"It means, concretely, that you lied about what you agreed to testify to in this court and, since you did, any offer made to you no longer holds. You will go on trial as planned."
"I think I might remember now."
"Mr. Hendrick, I don't believe your testimony is worth anything. You said you lied, then you forgot, now you are remembering. If I were sitting in the jury box, I wouldn't believe you if you told me my name while sitting on a stack of Bibles. No more questions."
Sim was definitely squirming now. He apparently had made a deal and then backed out. I wondered why.
"Mr. Hendrick, I have only a few questions for you," Miller said. "Mr. Greenstreet suggested you were in his office two days ago and the two of you discussed a deal. Is that true?"
"And would you tell the court what the deal you discussed was."
"I face two civil suits and a criminal suit. Mr. Greenstreet offered me a plea bargain provided I testified about what I knew and did with the chief, mayor and judge."
"And you accepted?"
"And now you state you lied about your involvement with the chief, judge and mayor?"
"Well not exactly lied. It's just that I thought about what I had said and don't want to repeat it."
"You don't want to repeat it because it was a lie?"
"That's not it. I mean that's not exactly it."
"No more questions."
"Yes, Mr. Greenstreet?"
"Can you and I meet in your chambers with this witness?"
"The court stands in recess for fifteen minutes," the judge declared.
"Man, that's a surprise." Eugene said. "I thought he would take any deal he could get and roll over on his mother if necessary to get a lighter sentence. Something strange going on here."
"Wouldn't you like to be a fly on the wall in the judge's chambers?" Luke asked. "And I still haven't figured out why we are here."
"Now that you mention it, neither have I," I said.
Eugene and Larry were nodding agreement.
"Order in the court," the bailiff called, and the lawyers and judge took their places.
"Some new evidence has come to the attention of the court. It is the feeling of the court that a number of cases could be settled if the defendants and the lawyers of others involved have some time together. Accordingly, Court will recess for one hour, meeting again promptly at 4:45. Mr. Miller, Mr. Greenstreet, defendants, in my chambers. Mr. and Mrs. Metcalf, Mr. Greywolf, Mr. Watley, Mr. Willingham and Mr. Larsen, you are excused for the moment, but be available when court reconvenes.
An hour to kill wasn't long enough to do anything, and was too long just to sit some more. "Look, I'm going to call Paula and make sure she's home and safe. When do you think we'll be home?" Luke asked.
"No telling. If they work out deals in an hour, we may be home by 6:00. Otherwise, I have no idea," Larry said.
"Well, let's at least get out of here," I said.
We left the courthouse and started just to walk around a bit when a very aggressive young woman shoved a mike in our faces and asked, "Are you the five young men involved in the fight at the Waterside theater?"
"Ma'am, we are not interested in speaking to you," Larry said.
"It was suggested yesterday that you are gay. Are you?"
She shoved her mike in Kent's face as she asked the question.
"Ma'am, my friend told you we weren't interested in speaking to you. What part of that sentence did you not understand?" Kent asked.
"And you are?"
"I don't think there is any reason to answer that," Kent said.
"May I assume that you are so touchy because you are gay and just don't want to admit it?"
"Now you have made me angry. If you even suggest so much as that, I will sue you, your station and anyone remotely connected with either for slander. Further, if you don't stop your harassment at once, I will be forced to call the police."
"Young man, the public has a right to know."
"No, it does not. I have a right: a right to privacy. Now I suggest you leave."
The four of us were trying hard not to laugh, and when Kent motioned for a policeman standing on the courthouse steps, the reporter beat a hasty retreat and we cracked up. "Some people just can't get it right," Kent said and joined our laughter.
We walked around the block and stopped in a quick-food place for a Coke. We talked about what might be going on with the plea bargaining, but of course had no real idea. After we finished our Cokes, Kent looked at his watch and said, "Hey, we've got to get back".
Promptly at 4:45 the bailiff called for us. When we got to the front of the courtroom, the bailiff told us we were needed in the judge's chambers.
Inside we found Lem Aldridge, Mr. Greenstreet, Mr. Miller and the judge.
"Gentlemen, I am Judge Harrison and, of course, you know Mr. Miller and Mr. Greenstreet. I believe you know Mr. Aldridge." We introduced ourselves and shook hands all around. "Gentlemen, we have had a development in this case which throws a great deal of light on what has been going on. Mr. Greenstreet, perhaps you would like to tell these good people what has happened."
"I was very puzzled as to why the Hendrick boys suddenly developed bad memories this afternoon. They had agreed to testify and while I didn't think their testimony would do the three defendants any great harm, I was depending on it in other cases. In chambers I learned they had received threats on their lives if they testified. Mr. Miller was, and is, very upset over attempted intimidation of witnesses. I suspected it would be impossible to determine who made the threat, but it turns out to be otherwise."
"The FBI and OBI had the three defendants' phones tapped. Since they are all out on bond, they are free to make any phone calls they wish. It seems the two Hendrick boys had a conference call last evening in which all three defendants made threats. In light of that, Mr. Miller is in a very bad position. Accordingly, he has agreed to us making offers to the five. Since you are involved in civil rights suits and civil suits, Judge Harrison asked Mr. Aldridge to be here to represent you."
"Here's what we are thinking about offering. For Sim Hendrick, six months in jail and five years probation with the proviso that he testify, if the trial continues. It also means he cannot serve as a police officer again. Additionally, he is to pay each of you $200 to have you drop the civil rights and civil suits against him. I know that is very little, but it's all he can pay so you will get something.
"For Shawn Hendrick, the same and, in addition, he is to pay the cost of having Mr. Willingham's car restored. Mr. Aldridge finds those terms acceptable, I believe."
"I do, and advise you to accept," Mr. Aldridge said. "I only find them acceptable because the two were not involved in the attempted bombing of your house. My advise is to take the offer because you will get something out of this. Otherwise, even if you win, you'll probably get less and certainly no more--since they don't have it."
"Fine," Eugene said, "but what about the chief, mayor and judge? And what about the others involved in the attempted bombing of the house?" There may be no Millie genes in Eugene, but she definitely seemed to be rubbing off on him.
"Those involved in the attempted bombing of the house pleaded guilty at their arraignment and have already been sentenced to ten years," Judge Harrison said. "Mr. Greenstreet, about the other three?"
"We will accept a guilty plea to lesser charges which will earn them ten to twenty-five years in prison and they are to repay you triple the amount they took from you in the pay-off. Frankly, I think that would be all you would get if the trial went on and you'd still have to sue for your money."
"Mr. Aldridge?" Judge Harrison asked.
"Judge, when this crew accepted the challenge of helping clean up Waterside, I felt sorry for them since they were out the payoff money, so I returned my fee. Seems to me it would be right for the three to pay this crew's attorney's fee."
"And that would be?"
"You're cheap, Aldridge," Miller said. "They are paying me $1500 plus time and expenses."
"Sounds reasonable to me," Judge Harrison said, "especially in light of the fact that their own lawyer suggested it. Did that include Mr. Glaze?"
"No, he was a local boy and apparently not subject to false arrest," Mr. Aldridge laughed.
"So that's four times fifteen hundred. Mr. Miller add a $6,000 payment to Mr. Aldridge, $2,000 from each of the three. Have we agreed on that as an offer? Mr. Miller?"
"Seems fair enough judge. Even though they are my clients, I would find it hard to defend them after they made death threats."
"Fair enough if it's acceptable to Mr. Aldridge's clients."
"Yes, if it sends a strong enough message to the bigots in Waterside."
"It should at least make them think," Judge Harrison said. "How about you four? You are the ones who have been put through the wringer."
"It's fine with me provided the Metcalfs are included one way or another," Luke said. "They tried to come to our defense and, as a result, were threatened and had to be protected, but didn't back down."
"I don't believe they have filed a suit, so there's no way they can receive any compensation," Judge Harrison said.
"I believe you will find they have filed a civil suit against the three, Judge," Mr. Miller said. "It's not asking much, a thousand each. If they are willing to drop the charges for a thousand each, I will certainly advise my clients to accept."
"Are they here?" the judge asked.
"They were before the recess," I said.
"Miller, see if you can find them and find out if they agree."
Mr. Miller left and came back in five or ten minutes with the Metcalfs. "Mr. and Mrs. Metcalf, we think we can clean up this court mess by offering deals to the five being tried. Mr. Larsen has agreed to the terms we have set out with the proviso that you be included. Would you be willing to drop the charges if you were given the amount you asked in your suit?"
"Not unless there is some punishment for the boys who attacked these young men," Mrs. Metcalf said.
"We just hit a snag," Mr. Aldridge said, "because the only one charged was Shawn Hendrick."
"Not exactly true, Mr. Aldridge. I don't know how Shawn escaped being in on the bombing attempt, but he wasn't among those arrested. The other five were. They are already serving time," Mr. Greenstreet said. He then told the Metcalfs about the offers being made and they accepted.
Judge Harrison buzzed the bailiff and told him to bring the three and the two Hendrick boys. When they arrived, the Judge told them the offer and asked if they wanted to accept it. Before they could speak, Mr. Miller said, "I advise you to accept". The mayor started whining and Mr. Miller said, "Again, I advise you to take the offer". Finally all did and were taken out by the bailiff to begin serving their time.
It was 6:30 when we were finally finished. Kent called Paula and told her we were on our way. When he closed the phone, he laughed and said, "Seems a certain female reporter made it abundantly clear that the attempt to smear our good names by implying we were gay had failed and she had direct evidence it was not true. She showed a part of the clip she made of my response to her question and concluded that the question had been laid to rest once and for all." We all had a good laugh as we started walking toward the entrance of the courthouse.
ASP--The Oberlin Five--Chapter Sixteen--Luke
When we walked through the courthouse doors, we were confronted with a very different world than the one we had left when we walked in. Huge fluffy snowflakes were falling like large white goose feathers floating down from a leaden sky. It had been snowing long enough for the white fluff to cover the sidewalks and streets except where traffic had left ugly black trails in white snow. "I suspect none of you have had a great deal of experience driving in the snow," Kent said. "I think it might be wise for me to drive your car, Eugene. Matt's Jeep is four-wheel drive so he has an advantage but, even at that, I think I should follow you, Matt, in case you get into trouble. There's not much on the road now but, the way it's falling, we could run into some real snow before we get home."
"Sounds wise to me," Matt said. "Strange that Paula didn't mention the snow."
"If she has been inside all the time, she may not have noticed," Larry suggested. "Well, I guess we better get moving."
We walked the three blocks to the parking garage. It seemed that even in the short distance to the parking garage, the snow had started coming down harder. We got the cars and started home. As we left Cleveland behind, the snow changed. A strong wind was swirling the snow around on the ground and that falling was no longer large fluffy flakes, but wind-driven icy flakes. The snowfall continued to increase rapidly and the gusts of wind driving it against the side of the Jeep actually rocked us. Visibility was decreasing quickly, making it difficult to see the highway and cars ahead of us. Finally we were creeping along at fifteen or twenty miles an hour, using the tail lights of a car ahead as a beacon.
I looked out the back and could see Kent's headlights. He was right behind us and had he been even a few hundred feet further back, he would be invisible. The cars ahead of us left clean ruts so the road did not seem treacherous and, while we were moving very slowly, everything seemed to be going well when suddenly the Jeep started skidding. Matt fought to keep it under control and finally managed to do so. "I guess there was an icy patch on the highway," he said, "because I didn't see any change in the snow and the ruts looked clear."
"Must have been black ice. Just keep cool and it will be all right," I said as I patted his thigh.
"Luke, I am beginning to wonder why two nice southern boys like us are up here in Yankee country," Matt laughed.
"'Cause them there Yankees be paying the bill for us nice southern boys. Have to get even some way," I laughed as I gave him a quick kiss on the cheek.
The snow was really coming down now and we were being lashed by the wind. I kept looking back to make sure Kent and the crew were behind us. They were about as close as they could be safely. I glanced at the speedometer and saw we were traveling at less then fifteen miles an hour. At that rate, we would be lucky to get home in two hours.
I could see Matt was getting very tense as we continued to creep along. >From time to time the Jeep hit an icy spot and slipped or skidded a bit, but so far nothing serious. "Luke, get the phone and call Paula. We should have done that earlier. She will be worried about us since we should have been home by now."
I dialed the number and when Paula answered she said, "Thank goodness you called, Luke. I have been worrying about you. I hadn't looked outside until after you called and, when I did, the ground was already white and the snow just keeps coming faster and faster. Where are you?"
I gave Paula our location as best I could, since I couldn't see the mile posts and saw very little I recognized. "Just have something ready to warm us up when we get there," I said. "We're warm in the Jeep, but all this snow makes me feel cold. I remember how excited we got when it snowed at home, but we didn't have to drive. This is definitely not fun!"
"Luke, please keep calling me. I won't stop worrying until you are all home safe."
"Will do, Mother Paula," I said and closed the phone.
I noticed then that Matt was very tense, having a death grip on the steering wheel and leaning over it, trying to see. "Would you like for me to drive awhile? I see the weigh station just ahead, so we are ten miles from home. We could pull in there and change drivers."
"If you don't mind. I think every muscle I have is in full tense mode."
"Signal so Kent will know to pull in as well and I'll take over. We still have five miles to the exit for home."
Matt turned on his blinker and we eased into the weigh station exit. When Kent pulled up behind us, I took Matt's phone and got out to run back and tell the others what was going on. As I stepped out of the Jeep, a gust of wind caught me and almost blew me down. I had on a decent coat but not one designed for a winter blizzard, so the wind cut right to the bone. When I reached Eugene's car, I told them we were changing drivers. I handed the phone to Kent and said, "Thought you might like to call Paula."
Kent took the phone and called Paula. He sounded very confident and reassuring as he spoke to her. When he finished he said, "I hope I sounded a lot more confident than I feel. Luke, the way the snow is coming down, we may have to abandon Eugene's car before we get home. I think the Jeep can keep going after it is impossible for this car. If I see that we need to do that, I'll find a place where we can leave the car with a measure of safety and blink my lights so you will know to stop. This is no longer a little lake effect snow; the wind's turning it into a real blizzard."
"I'll make sure Matt keeps tabs on you so we will know when you decide to stop."
I struggled against the wind getting back to the Jeep and was half-frozen before I made it. Matt turned the heater all the way up as I started driving toward home.
Five miles from the weigh station, we took the exit ramp to our road. The ramp was pretty steep and, as I started down it, the Jeep started skidding. I fought to regain control, but it was useless. The Jeep was going where it wanted to go, skidding toward the left side of the ramp regardless of any steering maneuvers I attempted. I was skidding very slowly and finally took my hands from the steering wheel and just watched as the Jeep skidded to rest against a low curb. "You want to know helpless?" I asked. "Try steering on ice."
I made sure the Jeep was in four-wheel drive, changed into reverse and cautiously depressed the accelerator. The Jeep moved slowly, but enough to gave me a chance to turn the wheels away from the curb, clearing it so I could get it headed down the ramp. I stayed in low gear as I carefully drove down the ramp and onto our road.
I was barely moving so Matt could watch Kent as he started down the ramp. He skidded several times, but didn't lose control as I had. When he was off the ramp, I gradually increased the speed of the Jeep until we were going about fifteen miles per hour.
A mile or so from the exit, there was a road off to the right which came to a dead end at our road, its approach down a slight hill. As we neared the intersection, I saw a car on the road, moving faster than we were, and the side road was not as good as the one we were on. There was no way I could stop or speed up, so I just kept moving. Matt said, "That car may not be able to stop, but we'll be past by the time it reaches the intersection."
Matt turned to look out the back as we passed the intersection. "The car's skidding, Luke, and it just ran the stop sign directly into Kent's path. You better stop."
I took my foot off the accelerator and started braking gently and we rolled to a stop just as Matt said, "Oh my God. Both of them went off the road." I put the Jeep in reverse and drove slowly until we reached the two cars. The one which came through the intersection had gone over the bank and was nose down in the ditch. When Kent swerved to miss hitting the other car, he had gone off the road. Two wheels were still on the shoulder, but the other two were definitely stuck.
I stopped the Jeep and Matt and I went running toward the two cars. When we reached them, the three guys were crawling out of Eugene's car. When the three were out, we all rushed down into the ditch. A young woman was leaning over the steering wheel. I couldn't tell whether or not she was conscious until we opened her door. When she raised up, I could see she was crying. I reached in and helped her get out of the car. "Are you all right?" I asked. She nodded.
"Lucinda!" Matt cried, "Are you sure you are all right?"
She nodded and then answered, "I'm all right, aside from being scared half to death."
"We don't need to be standing out here," Kent said. "It is very cold. There is no way we can get these two cars out. We'll have to get a tow truck in the morning. Lucinda--that's your name?" Lucinda nodded. "We'll all get in the Jeep and you can go home with us. It's not safe to be traveling at all, but the Jeep will probably get us home, otherwise we're in danger of getting frostbite."
We all walked to the Jeep and, as we approached it, I said, "Kent, you have more experience with this stuff than we do. I think you should drive."
"I was going to suggest the same thing," Larry said.
We all got in the Jeep and Kent started driving down the road slowly. "What are you doing out on a night like this?" Matt asked.
"Another student and I are working on a project and she asked me to come to dinner at her parents' place so we would work after dinner. Unfortunately, we paid no attention to the weather. When we finished and I started home, I discovered the snow."
"Why didn't you just stay put?" Kent asked.
"I needed to get back to my daughter. Mrs. Kinsey, my landlady, is keeping her for me and I know she is worried and doesn't need the responsibility for Faith any longer than is necessary."
"Why don't you give her a call and tell her you will be staying with us tonight?" Matt asked.
"I'll call when I get to a phone and see how she is doing, although I don't know that there is a lot I can do about getting there tonight."
Matt was sitting in my lap--six in a Jeep is a bit crowded to say the least--and had to move around until he could get his phone out of the glove compartment. His butt slipped as he turned toward the back to give Lucinda the phone and got me. "Holy shi... Damn, you got me, Matt." He started to move and I said through clinched teeth, "Just be still, Babe. One more like that last one and I may be to bury."
There had been no cars on the road since the snow started and Kent must have been driving by instinct, because I couldn't see how he knew what was road, shoulder, ditch and corn field. The five miles from the exit to the house were not covered very quickly. In fact, it was over half an hour from the time we all got in the Jeep until we turned in to our drive. We had called Paula twice, telling her we had to drive slowly, not about having to abandon Eugene's car. The grandfather clock in the foyer chimed 9:30 as we walked in the front door. It had taken us over three hours to drive what should have taken less than an hour.
We had all gotten very cold at the intersection and the Jeep had done a fair job of getting us warm, but the very presence of snow everywhere made me feel much colder than I was. As soon as we got inside, we took off our coats and gathered around the fireplace in the family room where Paula had a nice fire going. Shortly after we walked in, she came to the family room with a tray of hot chocolate.
"Kent, you better watch out or one of us will steal Mother Paula," Larry said.
"Don't think she's your type," Kent laughed.
"The way she takes care of us, I think I might overlook that," Larry laughed.
"Don't know that you have to steal me to be taken care of--in most ways," Paula laughed.
"Lucinda, I assume Mrs. Kinsey will be able to care for your daughter and there is no real need for you to try and get to Oberlin tonight," Matt said.
"She said I was not to worry about Faith. She had put her down at 7:30 and she was sleeping peacefully. In fact, Mrs. Kinsey said I better not try to get in tonight or she'd have to assume I was crazy, too crazy to care for a child. Paula, you didn't know what a great blessing you were bestowing on me when you mentioned Professor Moler needing a student assistant. That was great, but him helping me get settled in Mrs. Kinsey's apartment was really a tremendous help. I don't know what I would do without her now."
"Glad it worked out," Paula said. "If you are all thawed now, I have dinner ready." I didn't realize I was hungry until Paula mentioned dinner. Of course dinner conversation was about the trial and its outcome. "I'm just glad it's all over. I certainly think we have had enough excitement to last us for a long time," Paula said as we got up from the table and cleared it.
"I guess we'll be out of school tomorrow," I said, "a snow day!"
Kent started laughing. "You've got to remember snow is the usual here, not the exceptional. This is not North Carolina. I'll get up early and put the snow plow on the garden tractor and we'll clear the drive. Once we get to the road, it will be clear, I'm sure."
After dinner, a great dinner--she was becoming a good cook and enjoying it, although she denied both--Paula showed Lucinda the guest room and we all went to our rooms.
ASP--The Oberlin Five--Chapter Sixteen--Matt
When Luke and I got to our room, I said, "Luke, Kent did one hell of a job getting us home tonight, but he was still all tensed up during dinner and when he came upstairs."
"Are you suggesting what I think you are suggesting? That he needs a good massage?" Luke asked.
"Yes, that's what I was thinking, but I don't know how Paula would take to the suggestion that she give him one. Somehow or other I don't think she would take kindly to the idea."
"I think you are right. Matt, a massage doesn't have to end up with making love--although I hope you don't think I don't wish it always did."
"Luke, you really know how to give a massage. Why don't you offer to give Kent one?"
"You won't mind if I do?"
"Certainly not, why would I?"
"Because they are special for us."
"Luke, just a massage without all the extras," I smiled. "I think it's a good idea. I'll ask him while you warm the oil."
"Ok, if you are sure it's all right."
Luke got the bottle of massage oil and the vacuum bottle and went downstairs. I went across the hall and knocked on Kent's door.
"Come in," he called.
I went in and found Kent in bed. "Kent, Luke and I both noticed how tense you were driving home--with good cause I might add--and how you were still pretty tense throughout dinner. Luke has gone downstairs to heat a bottle of massage oil. Maybe you'd like to ask Paula to give you a massage, but if not, Luke will. He's terrific.
"Don't think I'm ready to ask Paula to do something which I suspect would be pretty intimate and damned erotic."
"It is when Luke gives me a massage, but it damn well better not get intimate and erotic for you," I laughed.
"Hey, I appreciate the thought and you can stay if you like to make sure Luke doesn't get all carried away."
"Don't think that's necessary--it better not be," I smiled. "I'll get towels to protect your bed."
As I was walking back in Kent's room with two large beach towels, Luke came up the stairs with the vacuum bottle in one hand and a half-empty massage oil bottle in the other. "Ok, out from under the cover, Kent," Luke said.
"Uh, I am nude, Luke," Kent said and blushed.
"Ok, Matt and I will turn our backs while you get something on."
A few minutes later, Kent said, "Ok, I'm decent."
"On your stomach, Kent," Luke said as he crawled on the bed and started giving Kent one of his Luke Special massages.
As Luke started the massage, I asked, "If it's not prying too much, Kent, how do things stand between you and Paula? I'm sure you'd rather have her fingers on your back."
"No problem," he answered. "I really wish I knew. Well, I guess I do--sorta. Everything is fine, but she is so reserved, holding back."
"Paula was never one to rush into things exactly," I said, "But neither is she one to hold back when she's made up her mind."
"I might have thought she wasn't over Jacob, but that's hard to believe having seen them together," Luke said, puzzled.
"I have meant to talk with you two before," Kent said, "but I'm so new at this romance thing and thought... well, I don't know exactly what I thought. Let me try something on you two. I think Paula really got burned--nope, burned herself--by rushing into a relationship with Jacob. The break-up was by mutual agreement and they are still friends, but I think she is very afraid of thinking she's in love again when it might be something like it was with Jacob. At that time, she and Jacob were the only unattached pair in a very paired-up group. The same thing is true here." Kent laughed, "There are married couples not as paired as the two couples in this house. So she and I get together and it's bound to raise the question of whether this is the same type of thing she had with Jacob."
"On your back," Luke said. Kent turned over and Luke continued his massage. "You know, I think you are right, Kent. It sure makes sense."
"It sure does, but it's kinda tough on you," I said. "I mean, if I were you, I sure would not like to have to stand aside and wait to see what happens."
"I don't know. As I said, I'm new at this game. I know she's always here when I come in. We see each other every day, so I can wait. I guess I'm afraid to push, for fear she will decide she's not sure so she will break it off. I suspect the time will come when I will ask that she make a commitment or call it off, but I'm not ready to ask for that yet and not sure I am ready to make that kind of commitment myself."
"I guess I can understand," Luke said. "It's kinda like Matt's and my reluctance to tell each other we were in love for fear of ending our friendship."
"Similar," Kent said. "I mean Paula's friendship means more to me right now than... than... I'm not sure." Kent looked up, smiled and said, "I told you I am new at this romance game. I'm not even sure of anything."
Luke gave Kent a slap on the chest and asked, "There, feel better?" as he closed the vacuum bottle.
"Man, I can't believe how good I do feel," Kent responded.
"If you don't want to shower tonight, you better sleep on top of the towels or you'll get everything oily," I said. "But since you are not--and you definitely are not--going on to the next stage, a hot shower will finish the job," I said.
Kent laughed and said, "I think I'll have a hot shower and go to sleep."
Luke and I went to our room and Luke said, "Massage?" with a wicked grin.
"When have I ever said no to a massage," I said as I kissed Luke softly, "but you have done one. I think I should give you one."
"When have I said no to that?" he laughed.
I took the oil from Luke and set it on the night stand, wrapped my arms around him and kissed him passionately. Luke's tongue found its way into my mouth as I took care of his snap and zipper, allowing his pants to slide down his muscular legs. Our kiss continued as I unbuttoned his shirt and slid it from his body. We had to break our kiss so I could pull his T-shirt over his head. I took Luke into my arms and put him on the bed, after which I removed his shoes and socks.
I stood at the edge of the bed, just worshipping the beauty of my Bright Angel's body. I guess I should have known better than to stand so close to the bed because Luke reached up so quickly I didn't see him, grabbed my hand and pulled me onto the bed with him. I mostly fell on the bed where he quickly undressed me.
Luke was covering my body with kisses and tickling me at the same time. He knew just exactly the spots which would send me into hysterics. I was trying to say, "Luke, please stop," but I couldn't, because I couldn't stop giggling long enough. Finally Luke wrapped his arms around me and covered my mouth with his. Breaking the kiss, I said, "Did you decide against that massage?".
Luke was kissing my nipples and flicking them with his tongue. He stopped, covered my mouth again with his then, ending the kiss, turned over on his stomach.
I poured a stream of warm oil on his back and started massaging his shoulders and neck. As I did, I noticed something strange. "Luke, I thought you had some different oil when you were giving Kent his massage. It didn't have the right fragrance, but now it does."
"Matt, it's the same oil, but on my body it does not have the fragrance it has on yours. Last summer..." Luke paused for a minute. I stopped massaging his back and waited, holding my breath. "Last summer I missed you so much and, remembering the fragrance that is Matt, I put a bit of oil on my arm, thinking I would at least have that, but it was different. It wasn't the fragrance I knew. I guess it has something to do with body chemistry. It's special. It has to have your body to bring out its wonders," Luke said.
"Or your body," I said as I started massaging Luke's strong back again. Kent was right: a massage was a very intimate and erotic experience if it involved two lovers, and this massage did, and our love-making proved it was just an erotic and intimate prelude to greater eroticism and intimacy. After our love-making had exhausted us, we showered and, back in bed, slept, still surrounded by the fragrance of the two of us, the massage oil and our love-making.
ASP--The Oberlin Five--Chapter Sixteen--Kent
I guessed the drive home from Cleveland in the snow would have made me tense under any circumstance but, as soon as I saw Luke start sliding on the exit ramp, I remembered getting snowbound in the car last year and Dad's reaction. Sure he had come around recently, but old ways of thinking and acting were hard to break. I realized I was all tensed up over something that no longer counted, but I was tense. Once I got tense, kinda bracing myself for a tirade from Dad, I couldn't relax even when I realized there would be no tirade. Driving had gotten more treacherous all the way from Cleveland, so Luke skidding had just added to the tension, not caused it. Then, shortly after we got down the ramp on the road home, a car couldn't stop at an intersection and we barely missed a major collision. By the time we got home, I was practically a nervous wreck.
After dinner I went to my room, undressed and slipped into bed, but was so tense I couldn't relax. Matt came in and asked if I'd like Luke to give me a massage and, when he did, I really found myself relaxing all over. We talked a bit about my relationship with Paula and the two guys agreed she was probably gun-shy of falling in love too quickly, afraid she just thought she was in love. I could wait.
I was sound asleep when I heard someone knocking on my door. I got up, threw on my robe and went to the door. When I opened it, Paula was standing there, tears in her eyes. I reached out and drew her to myself and held her close. When I did, she really started crying. "Paula, Babe, it's 2:00 in the morning. What's wrong? What happened?"
It took Paula a few minutes to get control enough to talk. When she did, she said, "Kent, Dan called and Elizabeth has been kidnapped." As soon as the words were out of her mouth, she started crying hard again. I tried to soothe her. I was stroking her hair and kissing her forehead and making noises like my mom used to make when I was upset as a child.
"Kent, we have to tell the others and I can't do it by myself. Will you go with me?"
"Of course I will, Paula. Come on." Paula looked at me, smiled weakly and said, "Thanks, Kent." Then she tiptoed and kissed me--on the mouth. I liked it!
I knocked on Matt's and Luke's door and when Luke came to the door, Paula said, "Luke, bad news: Dan just called and said Elizabeth has been kidnapped."
"Oh, my God!" Luke said, and got a horrified look on his face. "Oh my God! Matt and I will be down in a few seconds."
"We have to tell Larry and Eugene as well," I said.
Eugene came to the door when I knocked and when I told him, he went snow-white, then turned and ran to the bed and shook Larry without saying a word. "We're all going downstairs," I said, and Paula and I went down. I immediately started coffee.
Matt and Luke, Larry and Eugene all came down at the same time. We sat at the kitchen table and Paula said, "I heard the phone, looked at the clock and knew it was something bad to get a phone call at this time of morning. When I answered, it was Dan. He said he just wanted us to know he was thinking about us and we had his prayers. I asked him what was going on. He was surprised we hadn't been told. When Margaret got ready to leave the hospital yesterday morning, Elizabeth was gone and had not been found. That was all he knew. I wanted all of you up when we called the Family."
"I am really pissed that something as serious as that has happened and we weren't notified," Luke said.
"We can take care of that later," Matt said. "Right now, let's call the Family."
We all got coffee and went to the library, called the Andrews' and had a long conversation with Michael, speculating about the kidnapper and the kidnapping. We were using a speaker-phone, so all of us got our thoughts into the mix. Michael apologized for not calling, but said he thought we had our hands full with the trial and there was nothing we could do.
"There was something we could do, Michael. We could hold you all in our thoughts and prayers. We are family, Michael, and we need to know about things affecting the family," Luke said.
"Speaking of which, how is the trial going?" Michael asked.
"Ok, you got me," Luke said. "We should have called. I guess we were so concerned about getting home in the snow we forgot." We told Michael about the trial and its outcome, and getting home in the snow. That finished, we talked more about the kidnapping.
"Look, Michael, we'll go on with the regular routine tomorrow," Matt said, "but I'll have my phone and you call if something develops. Otherwise we'll call."
"Yea, wish we could be there with the family," I said, "we're thinking about all of you." Everyone said good night and we all had a hugging and crying time and went back to bed for a couple hours since we had to get up and plow the drive to get out in the morning.
We were all up early Friday morning. Larry and Luke went with me to attach the snow plow and we cleared the drive directly in front of the house before we were called to breakfast. I ate a quick breakfast and started plowing snow again. Luke came and took over, telling me to get ready for school since I had to drive all the way into Cleveland. By the time I was ready to leave, the drive had been cleared and, sure enough, the road had been plowed when I reached it.
As I drove to school, I thought about Luke giving me a massage the night before. It had been very erotic even if Luke was a guy. I guessed I was very glad Matt and Luke had not asked Paula to do it. If she had, I think I might have embarrassed us both! Just the thoughts of her hands on my body, as Luke's has been, were enough to give me a woodie. She might not have been willing to do it at that point, but I put massage on my list of things I definitely wanted included in the love-making kit!!
There were several abandoned cars along the highway, and when I saw the first one I remembered we had abandoned Eugene's car. I hoped someone remembered to call a tow service. We had all been so concerned about the kidnapping, it hadn't been mentioned in the morning. I was sure the crew would remember when all five of them and Lucinda had to pile in to the Jeep.
Lucinda had slept through the night's excitement but had been horrified when told about the kidnapping at breakfast. I guessed having a child of her own had something to do with her reaction. Anyway, I needed to call when I reached Case.
I had a few minutes to spare when I got to school, so I found a phone and called Matt's cell phone number. He answered quickly and when I asked if there had been any news from Concord, he said there hadn't been. I then asked if they had been able to get someone to get Eugene's and Lucinda's cars, and he said that Eugene had just gotten back from picking his up. "The tow truck also got Lucinda's car back on the road and she is probably at home with her baby now. We are on our way to school even as we speak. See you this evening."
A couple of kids in one of my classes mentioned the trial and we talked a bit about it. They seemed to think it wasn't real. "Seemed too much like a bad southern movie," one of them said. I just laughed to myself, imagining what Matt would say to that.
I was the last one getting home Friday. I didn't need to ask if there had been any news from Concord; the long faces told me that. The whole crew was sitting in the library, all more or less staring at the phone. "You all stay here and I'll get supper," I said.
"I'll help," Paula said, getting up. "Maybe it will take my mind off what's happening in Concord, well at least a little."
We had just started getting ready to prepare supper when the phone rang and Paula and I were in the library in about two steps. Luke answered the phone and switched on the speaker. "Luke," he said.
"Luke, David. Thought I'd let you know that Mary Kathryn and Michael found Elizabeth and she is ok. They are on their way home now. Michael will call you with all the details since I only know some of them."
"Thanks for calling, David, and thank goodness Elizabeth has been found and is safe," Luke said. "We'll be waiting for Michael's call." Luke hung up the phone and we all started crying and hugging each other. The whole crew went to the kitchen with Paula and me to help get supper ready. Of course, they actually hindered since there were so many of them. Because of the crisis, we were having canned soup and grilled cheese sandwiches, so the meal was ready in a few minutes and Michael still hadn't called when we finished eating. Paula prepared a tray with coffee and cookies and took it to the library where we all waited for Michael to call.
The phone finally rang and Michael and Mary Kathryn gave us all the details, including how our speculation had helped. It was a very happy bunch who finally went to bed.
Matt, of course, had his usual Saturday lesson and then spent a great deal of time practicing and selecting works for his recital. Luke worked in his studio. He was painting like mad these days and sculpting. I spent several hours working on the gardens and landscaping plan for the house down the beach. It was a large project and I was presenting the plans as my semester project in landscape design. Not only did that make the project do double duty, but also I had the criticism and suggestions of an expert, my teacher.
The combo had a gig Saturday night at a veteran's club. It was a dance celebrating Veterans' Day. By the third set, several people were incapable of dancing since they had too much to drink, but no-one was rowdy and most people just had a good time. It was a very profitable night as we had a pile of bills--many fives and tens--from people who had asked us to do a special song. Luke was really great as MC, coming up with a hundred very sentimental ways of saying, "this song is for Mary from Joe," and all the Marys and Joes loved it.
Matt started getting nervous Monday after supper. The audition committee meeting was Wednesday, and Matt was practicing as if he could improve the music on his audition tape. Tuesday, Luke finally told him they were going for a ride in the country. The snow-covered landscape wasn't something I found too exciting, since I had seen it every year, but I guessed for the southern boys it was something new. One thing the five had given me was new eyes to see familiar things. Except for a bright moon reflecting on the snow, it was dark when they left around six.
ASP--The Oberlin Five--Chapter Sixteen--Matt
Luke insisted I go for a drive with him Tuesday. I'll admit I was very uptight. I had told myself that I stood a chance of getting one of the two concert spots, but I didn't believe it. I had told myself it wasn't important, but it was. I knew I had done my best on the audition tape, but there were hundreds, thousands of organists more experienced and better than I was. What made me think I stood a chance? But I really knew I did and I really wanted to be chosen to play one of the series.
We had driven out into a snow-covered, moon-lit world. It was a very quiet world we were traveling in, the silence broken only by the steady hum of Luke's truck motor and a golden oldies tape playing softly. Luke was driving and I was sitting as close to him as my seatbelt allowed, my fingers under his hair, stroking his neck. I felt myself gradually relax and I became very aware of Luke and of how much I loved him. I kissed his cheek, then rested my head on his shoulder. "Luke?"
"Can you even imagine how very, very much I love you?"
Luke looked around, smiled and said, "Yea, Matt, I think I can. I think it's almost as much as I love you," he said, taking his eyes off the road briefly to look at me. As he did, he hit an icy spot and the truck skidded. Quickly putting his attention where it needed to be, he said, "Whoa, hold it. We've had enough of that nonsense already," as he regained control of the truck. "Think we'll have to save lovin' for later, Dark Angel," he said.
Realizing we were nearing the van Hook farm, I said, "Luke, let's drop in on the van Hooks". Luke objected, saying Yankees didn't just drop in on each other the way southerners expected to and did.
"Then they will just think we are southerners who don't know any better, but I bet they will welcome us."
Luke turned into the van Hooks' drive. The lights were on in their living room, casting a golden glow on the snow outside. The house looked warm and inviting.
We went toward the porch on a walk which had not been cleared. "This is dangerous," Luke said. "We need to clear their walk."
We knocked on the door and when Mr. Van Hook opened it, he exclaimed, "Luke, Matt, how good to see you! Come in! Come in!"
"Before we do, do you have a snow shovel near by?" Luke asked.
"There's a couple under the front steps. Do you need to dig your truck out or something?"
"Yes, we need to shovel something. We'll be in when we finish." It took over half an hour to clear the walk, and both Luke and I managed to work up a sweat in spite of the temperature. When we reached the end of the walk, Luke opened the mail box and found a large pile of mail. We took it and the shovels back to the house, replaced the shovels and knocked on the door.
When Mr. van Hook opened the door, he said, "Come in! You must be frozen!"
"Hardly," Luke said. "We kinda worked up a sweat, but very long out there doing nothing and we really would be cold." As he spoke he handed Mr. van Hook the mail. "Seems you have several days mail there," he said.
"Yes, I'm afraid to walk on the snow, afraid of a fall that would be very bad for an old guy. But what did you need to shovel out? Your truck's not stuck is it?"
"No, but we saw a walk that needed shoveling," I smiled. "Guess us southern boys can't get enough snow play time."
"You shoveled our walk?" Mrs. Van Hook asked, as she brought steaming cups of hot chocolate for all four of us.
"Sure," Luke said. "Good exercise."
"It's such good exercise I can't do it any more," Mr. van Hook said. "Two neighbor boys took care of it until this year, but now they are at Ohio State. Sure appreciate you doing it."
They asked about the rest of the house crew. Then Mr. Van Hook said, "We saw the news about the trial and read about it in the newspaper. Someone actually arrested all of you in spite of the fact that vandals had damaged Eugene's car and started a fight?"
"That's right, but we came out ok. It's just that it took time we needed for other things," Luke said. "Now Matt's all uptight because he is being considered for a summer concert series and will know whether or not he's a finalist this week."
"Well, of course he will be," Mrs. Van Hook said. "Matt's a very nice young man so he'll certainly get the series."
"Afraid being nice doesn't count if I can't play well enough," I answered and smiled. I was afraid to look at Luke because Millie always referred to a gay man or a man who "acted gay" as a nice young man.
"Actually it does," Luke said. "If he is a finalist, and he will be, he has to spend time with the committee to make sure he is socially acceptable. I'm not worried about him getting a series, but he is."
"They better not pick someone else," Mr. Van Hook said, "especially if they are looking for a nice young man."
We talked a while longer, but finally Luke said, "We have to go. Thanks for the conversation and hot chocolate."
"Thank you for shoveling the walk. It is a big help to us."
"No thanks necessary," I replied.
"Yes, sir, happy to do it," Luke said.